The school bus driver shortage is forcing students to wait longer and take longer rides once they board the big yellow vehicles.
The Redmond school district is short 11 drivers and four bus monitors.
“We’ve had to consolidate routes because of it, which leaves us with longer routes, longer student bus rides, being late to schools,” said Michelle Rainville, Redmond School District Transportation Supervisor.
“We can’t do field trips and we can’t do sporting events because we don’t have drivers for that.”
Every day, Rainville pulls mechanics out of the shop and puts them behind the driver’s wheel to maintain a basic level of service.
“The stress of last year and the COVID situation and the changing schedules, working, not working. Not knowing what’s happening tomorrow. That put a lot of strain on people I think,” she said.
“If they were at that stage of wanting to retire and they were just doing this for something extra they just said ‘I’m done.’ Now with the vaccine mandates, that’s another stressor. People are unsure what to do.”
Redmond, like all local school districts, is currently hiring drivers.
Pay rates have increased. Bonuses are offered. Training is paid.
“Anyone can drive a bus,” Rainville said. “Most people working here had no previous experience driving a large vehicle.
“We train them from the bottom up. We teach them everything they need to know about driving a large vehicle and being safe in that large vehicle.”
Rainville says things are looking up.
She has three new drivers in training and is receiving new applications from interested candidates.
It takes six weeks to train new drivers so any easing of the driver shortage won’t happen until late October or early November.
There are negatives and positives to the region-wide school bus driver shortage including longer bus rides for students, with some of them arriving a lot later than they used to.
The drivers who remain are working longer hours and making more money.