As schools go back into session this fall, districts across the country continue to cope with a significant shortage of school bus drivers. This shortage isn't entirely new, but the chronic problem was exacerbated by COVID school shutdowns.
This year, dealing with the shortage feels different to leaders of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT).
"The school bus driver shortage is not a new issue, and yet there is an immediate and deeper need from pupil transportation professionals to respond to it with innovative and existing tactics in order to provide students the safety, security, and normalcy that they all so deeply crave and deserve since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic," said NAPT President Rick Grisham. "NAPT's vision is a world where every student has access to safe and efficient transportation, and therefore, the leadership of NAPT will continue to be a part of the solution that combats the driver shortage by tirelessly checking in with ourselves and our members to ensure that the work we are doing reflects our vision."
Shortages - on top of the usual service variations caused by traffic conditions, accidents, and weather - are hampering on-time performance and frustrating families served by the school bus industry.
So what can be done?
A news release sent to NAPT members calls for reflection and support.
"Reflect on the early stages of the pandemic where news stories of the yellow school bus were not about the driver shortage, but rather about school buses offering mobile Wi-Fi and cellular service while school bus drivers delivered food and homework to those in need," the statement said. "The pupil transportation industry needs you to remember those times now and recognize that it is those same professionals and school buses that will work hard daily to deliver students to and from school, safely and efficiently."
When it comes to support, NAPT recommends:
- School districts communicate early, often, and honestly about transportation disturbances.
- Parents remain calm and patient as examples for their children.
- Organizations discuss transportation challenges with working parent employees and be understanding and offer help where possible.
- Those who can: learn to become a bus driver for your district.