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Michigan districts struggle to find bus drivers

Jan. 18, 2021
An ongoing shortage of drivers throughout the state has become more severe in the Covid-19 pandemic

Schools across the state of Michigan face a shortage of bus drivers to transport students to school every day, and officials in charge of transportation departments say the Covid-19 pandemic has only complicated the matter.

Mlive.com reports that the state is short about 2,500 bus drivers, according to Kalamazoo Educational Regional Service Agency Transportation Specialist Bill Dawson.

Michigan has about 19,000 school bus drivers, says Bill Disessa, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education. The state does not track data related to the supply and demand of school bus drivers but considers the need critical based on feedback from local districts, he says.

Mahlon Williams, transportation director for Buchanan Community Schools, says his job duties as director have taken a back seat to the necessary role he plays as daily bus driver in his district.

Buchanan Superintendent Patricia Robinson said the district has taken steps to mitigate the shortage problem such as combining bus routes, though that means longer rides for some students.

The district is searching for new drivers and offering incentives such as paying for all necessary training to rid applicants of any barriers.

“We just have not been successful (finding applicants),” Robinson said.

The district can cover the routes currently -- with the help of Williams -- but will be unable to provide transportation for students in the event that a bus driver gets sick or needs to quarantine from COVID-19 exposure, she said.

Michael Shibler, superintendent for Rockford Public Schools near Grand Rapids, said the bus driver shortage is a “significant issue” for his district.

Rockford has used their transportation director, trained office staff and mechanics to drive routes when in a pinch, Shibler said. It’s not a new issue for Rockford, he said, though the pandemic has made an impact on the shortage.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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