A new report from child ridesharing company HopSkipDrive details the current state of school transportation — from bus driver shortages to predictions for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.
Based on survey responses from pupil transporters in the U.S. — including a wide-ranging sample of superintendents, directors of transportation, and transportation staff — the “State of School Transportation 2021 Report” reveals the current state of the bus driver shortage, how school budgets will affect transportation, what the 2020-21 school year looked like in terms of transportation, and predictions for the 2021-22 school year, according to a news release from HopSkipDrive.
With the survey, the child ridesharing company set out to analyze exactly what issues are most pressing, how COVID-19 is affecting — and will continue to affect — transportation, as well as the sentiments of the professionals that help children get to school each day.
Survey results included these findings:
- Bus driver shortages are still a major issue. Only 16.92% of respondents called the bus driver shortage a non-issue, with 81% reporting that COVID-19 will exacerbate the shortage.
- Bus driver shortages are the main reason some school districts believe it will take up to three months to resume normal operations. Hybrid schedules, not enough substitute bus drivers, and adjusted bell times also may affect operations.
- The majority of respondents think general education services will stay the same as pre-COVID. While bus driver shortages and budgets are an issue, the vast majority — 61.54% of respondents — will not increase or decrease general education services in the 2021-22 school year.
- The four biggest pain points for school transportation staff were COVID-19 related issues, staffing, funding constraints, and school bus utilization.
- Purchasing for the 2021-22 school year may be delayed due to budget constraints, but hiring won’t. School budgets will delay 40% of respondents from purchasing new vehicles next year; only 4.62% reported that hiring will be delayed.
The survey respondents held various school transportation positions and spanned from school districts as small as under 5,000 students to districts over 100,000 students, according to HopSkipDrive. Respondents reported a wide range of students currently attending school in person, from all students learning virtually to over 61% of students in the physical classroom. The percentage of students pre-COVID who relied on school transportation also varied widely, according to the child ridesharing company.
While the report was quantitative, respondents reportedly also offered anecdotes sharing their frustration at bus driver shortages and various other pain points, as well as what is going well in their school transportation operations today. Respondents cited increased teamwork, cleaner buses and facilities, and more support for special-needs students as some of the things that are going well for their operations.