Bus driver shortage causes combined routes at Jamestown

Bus driver shortage causes combined routes at Jamestown

March 6th, 2019 by Danisha Hogue in Local News

JAMESTOWN, Mo. — Since she came to the Jamestown School District two years ago, having enough school bus drivers has been a challenge, said Superintendent Gretchen Guitard.

On Feb. 26, the school announced routes would be combined until further notice because of a driver shortage.

"We don't really have a lot of capacity or interest in this area for people to be a bus driver," she said.

Guitard said the issue could be in scheduling, passing the test or salary.

The Missouri Highway Patrol Driver Examination Division requires a written and driving test to receive a commercial driver license.

She added the unique schedule bus drivers work could be a deterrent.

"You get up early, run a route, most of our routes are about 40-50 routes long, then you have to stop in the middle of the day and run another one," she said.

The district runs four routes and has five buses. Often, routes are combined to three in the morning and afternoon for numerous reasons. Combined routes add an additional 10-15 minutes to the after-school drop-off times.

One issue is not having enough substitute drivers. Currently, the district has three substitutes. A job listing for bus driver and substitute bus drivers is on the school's website.

A rotation of five substitutes and four routine drivers would make the staff better, she added.

Some nearby districts, like California, use bus companies that have a large inventory of buses and a high number of driver applicants.

"Lots of us, we can't afford to go with a group like that," she said. "I do think it's a problem in small school districts."

In the spring, she said, the challenges increase due to more after-school activities such as FFA, track and baseball. Without a driver, there's a possibility students may miss or arrive late for practices or games at other schools.