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Monroe working to hire new drivers to combat ongoing bus driver shortage

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Posted at 5:23 PM, Nov 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 17:39:09-05

MONROE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Parents in Monroe were forced to make alternate plans after a bus driver shortage resulted in the cancellation of two bus routes this week.

Monroe Public Schools made an announcement on Sunday saying they would have to cancel two routes for the week. The district says they've been struggling with transportation staffing for the last 3-4 years.

Kaitlyn Brost Minney, who has a student in Monroe Public Schools, says she has been driving her student to school this week since the buses are not available.

"This was his first year riding the bus and he was super excited to do so and so he’s been riding morning and afternoons since school started," said Brost Minney. " I was sad about it. He was sad that he didn’t get to ride the bus and see his friends because he was really excited to do that every day but we understand situations happen."

Brost Minney says the route cancellations have resulted in longer lines for school drop-off and pick-up.

"(We're) waking up a little bit earlier, making sure we’re a little bit more on time. The lines are definitely a lot longer than they have been before so it’s at least an extra 10-15 minutes just for pick up and drop off," said Brost Minney.

The staffing issue has been impacting school districts nationwide and across several positions. An Institute of Education Sciences study found 53% of public school districts reported feeling understaffed entering the 2022-2023 school year.

Monroe Public Schools Interim Superintendent Andrew Shaw credits their staff shortage to an aging work staff, lack of available subs, and sick calls.

"In the world of transportation, it’s always been very fluid. What we’ve always had to do is, as a route, if we’re short a driver we’ll condense runs and try and create the least amount of impact," said Shaw.

Shaw says they picked routes with the fewest number of students on them. He says they're now working to hire three full-time drivers to fill in the gaps. The district is offering incentives to new drivers including an up to $2,000 bonus, reimbursement of training costs, competitive salaries, and benefits.

"It’s always a hard decision because no matter what we’re impacting education and we know that and we’re trying to do it in the least painful way as possible," said Shaw.

Shaw says they've also been working with students who have not been able to make it to class as normal due to the bus issue. He says as they continue to face challenges, they're advising parents to have a backup plan.

"Our ultimate goal is to provide a great education and so as long as we keep that in mind and we make those pivots and explain why people will understand," said Shaw.

The district says they have several interviews lined up for later this week. They're hoping to have the additional drivers trained and on the road by January 1st.