Monroe County schools are back in session. But it might take longer than usual for students to reach their classrooms in the morning, because the district is running short on school bus drivers.
The Monroe County Community School Corporation now has fifteen of about 120 total school bus routes open – a major gap to try to close.
School administrators count on losing around five drivers each summer. Most leave because they have found better-paying full-time jobs.
But this summer MCCSC also saw an unusually high number of bus drivers retire. All told, the district has lost 39 drivers – or about 30 percent of its workforce — since May 2012.
Indiana State School Bus Association President Ron Chew says a shortage of that size can amount to a crisis.
“That means that school system’s in a world of hurt,” he says. ”They have to scramble to get people to run those routes on a daily basis.”
A bus driver shortage not only affects MCCSC’s transportation division, but also the students and parents that rely on the bus system.
MCCSC transportation director Gib Niswander says with fewer drivers, drivers need to double up on or increase the length of their routes.
“The primary effect is the buses may be late. They may be late picking up students they may be late dropping off students in the afternoons,” he says.
Niswander says INDOT is expanding its recruitment efforts to retired and self-employed drivers in the hope of securing long-term working commitments.