Despite efforts to recruit bus drivers, the Jefferson City School District in Cole and Callaway counties is still experiencing a shortage, leading to delayed routes.
Over the past week, parents of several Jefferson City students took to Facebook, complaining that buses had come 45 minutes to an hour late and searching for answers.
Transportation delays occur because bus drivers have to cover more than their allotted routes.
Frank Underwood, director of facilities, safety and transportation for the district, said, "Drivers are having to cover partial routes in addition to their primary routes, so it takes longer for one driver to cover two routes than for two drivers to cover two routes."
Underwood said the district has 58 bus routes currently and is eight drivers short.
"We have been experiencing a driver shortage since the beginning of the school year, similar to many districts across the state and country," he said.
Bus drivers are being actively recruited.
"We do have seven drivers who are in training, so the recruitment efforts are leading to some successful leads," he said.
First Student, the bus company that serves the district, has been using multi-media recruiting and hosting hiring events around Jefferson City.
However, Underwood said, "The recruiting efforts are yielding far less potential applicant drivers than normal. From what we are hearing, this challenge is not unique to our community by any stretch. Districts across the nation are experiencing similar shortages and recruitment challenges."
Underwood said parents should receive alerts when buses are delayed.
"When parents enroll their student(s) with the district, they provide contact information (phone, email, text) and automatically begin receiving messages from the district and their student's school, including messages about their bus route," Underwood said. "We conduct a 'Test Day' early in the school year to ensure we have accurate contact information on file for every parent/guardian. If they change their phone number or email address, it has to be updated in their official parent record, which flows into our communications system. If there is a parent who believes they are not receiving messages, they can contact us here in the communications department and we will look into it to see if there is an issue with the contact information we have on file for them."
The communications department can be reached at 573-659-3018 or by email at [email protected].
Underwood added that if a parent or guardian has the correct contact information on file, but is still not receiving messages about bus delays, they can still reach out to the communications department and the department would work with the transportation department to ensure messages are being sent by First Student according to protocol.