COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – There has been a nationwide bus driver shortage and its effects are being felt in central Ohio.
Many school districts in the area said they have enough bus drivers to get students where they need to go, but the biggest issue for everyone seems to be the lack of substitute drivers.
Reynoldsburg City Schools is always hiring bus drivers, according to the district’s executive director of business Greg Pollock. Reynoldsburg reduced the number of routes this year partly because of that shortage.
“We have 43 routes reduced from 51 or so routes last year,” Pollock said. “We have all our routes covered, we have a number of release drivers, we have a number in training. We are in really good shape.”
At Hamilton Local Schools in the Obetz area, more substitutes are needed.
“We do have enough to serve the needs of our students right now, but we are actively looking for probably three to four more, whether that be in a floating or substitute role of some sort,” said Michael Sutherland, the public relations director for Hamilton Local.
Doug Palmer, a transportation consultant for the Ohio School Boards Association, said he has worked with many districts in Ohio to keep kids on buses. He said schools have found ways to work around the shortage.
“The districts are adjusting bell schedules, districts are adjusting service levels, they’re adjusting routes to fully utilize their buses,” Palmer said.
Palmer said parents should know the level of service or ride times may not be as good as they used to be.
Palmer said many people who want to drive for a living are now turning to private work like Amazon, DoorDash or Uber instead.
“On one hand I can go and work for a school. I can have benefits, but I don’t have flexibility,” Palmer said. “I can work for a last-mile delivery and have flexibility with my schedule.”
Palmer said to fix this shortage, school districts, private school leaders and state legislators need to come together and have a hard conversation.
Buses are the safest ways for kids to get to school according to Palmer. He hopes districts are working to keep kids on the bus.