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CCS bus driver shortages lead to students being late, missing school

Columbus City Schools currently has 557 active bus drivers. Back in 2019, the district had 765 bus drivers.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major problems when it comes to staffing nationwide, including with school bus drivers.

“About nine out of 10 districts [have problems],” said Doug Palmer, transportation consultant at Ohio School Boards Association.

Palmer said the decline in the number of bus drivers started in 2018 and continued to get worse.

“They've reached retirement ages and deal with the frustrations of COVID and the parents and everything. A lot of them are choosing to just retire,” Palmer said.

CCS Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon said this is concerned that the district is not at the capacity they need 

The district said in Tuesday night's school board meeting there are 557 active school bus drivers. At the same time of year in 2019, the district had 765.

Alicia Westerviller has a 15-year-old who relies on CCS transportation to get to her charter school.

“She came in the door at maybe 7:30 last night. She gets out of school at 3:30,” Westerviller said.

Amber Wilson has kids from kindergarten to 10th grade in the district. Wilson said she lost her job last week because she had to get her kids on the perpetually late bus.

“It's aggravating because she's my straight-A honor roll student and she's late to school every day and her grades are slipping because of this,” Wilson said.

Wilson's daughter has missed as many as six days in the first six weeks of school because a bus driver didn't show. Per the district policy, those count as unexcused absences.

Palmer said districts across the country are also looking at how to use drivers more effectively.

“They've looked at what routes they can combine so that makes the kids have longer ride times to get home or to get to school so they cut routes,” said Palmer.

When it comes to training, Palmer said that's another hurdle that can take anywhere from three weeks to three months. But he said districts, like CCS, are doing the best they can.

“It's just like a perfect storm," Palmer said.

Licking Heights School district will be hosting a special board of education meeting Thursday to talk about their ongoing bus driver shortage.

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