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School bus driver shortage weighing on Michigan parents as routes get delayed, canceled

Posted at 6:56 AM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 07:04:48-04

(WXYZ) — Hopping on the school bus is a challenge for kids across Michigan, including here in metro Detroit.

That’s because of a lack of bus drivers able and willing to take kids to school — leaving busy parents left to take their kids to school themselves.

The shortage is likely to continue on into next semester — and possibly even next school year. And the pandemic isn’t the only issue.

"They’ve been late, or they just haven’t shown up," said mother Eboney Howard.

Howard has four kids — two of which go to Madison High School. She says the bus driver shortage at the district — has made the busses unreliable.

“I work for a medical school, so I have to meet medical students here for particular meetings and I need to be here at a specific time, so the delay of sitting there waiting for a bus, it is not only an inconvenience to myself but an inconvenience to my children," she said.

Madison district public school leaders telling me via email they are working to hire three drivers, stating, “we have combined as many routes as we are able to combine. Although this is a partial solution, combining routes as so many districts have done, this also means longer time on the buses for the student.”

At Northville Public Schools — three bus routes are being canceled on a weekly basis to make up for a lack of drivers, and there have been several days so far this semester bus routes have been canceled at Plymouth-Canton Community Schools.

“I do believe it is getting a little bit better, but it’s something that is going to take some time to get through,” said David Meeuwsen, executive director for Michigan Association of Pupil Transportation.

Meeuwsen says through pay increases and signing bonuses — there has been some relief. For example — Ann Arbor Public Schools starting pay is now $24 an hour, a two dollar pay increase.

However, Meeuwsen doesn’t expect a return to “normal” until after the pandemic.

"It will be a year plus and there is some sticker training guidelines starting in February as well,” he said.

New federal regulations taking place in February known as “map 21."

Once the written test is passed — up and coming drivers will have to go through new hoops.

Submitting the written test to the federal government for approval compared to going through the secretary of state. Meeuwsen says getting a set of eyes on the test — and getting a go ahead to take a driving test — could make the training processes longer.

Some schools are avoiding the training process altogether.

Grosse Ile Township Public Schools had to cancel bus routes at the start of the year. Bus routes are now coming back on the 8th. The district just signed a contract with trinity transportation for them to cover routes.

"It is more expensive do use an outside service like this, compared to doing it yourself?” said Valerie Orr, superintendent of Grosse Ile Township Schools. “It’s hard to answer that questions because everybody had to raise their wages due to the shortage, so it’s hard to compare what we spent last year on transportation verse what we are spending currently with trinity, because of what is happening with wages and inflation and everything that is going on in the world.”

Orr says there are a lot of schools in our area already outsourcing transportation — and anticipates this happening more in the future considering the current shortage, as it allows them to focus on education.