Central Indiana school districts struggle as bus drivers leave for other jobs

Education

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

INDIANAPOLIS– We’re just over a month into the school year and the shortage of bus drivers continues to be a big problem for many school districts.

Like many school districts across Indiana, Hamilton Southeastern Schools is desperate for bus drivers. 

“We average 26 open routes a day,” said Zach McKinney, Director of Transportation at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. “Some of that is driver shortage, some was driver illness.”

McKinney says if a driver calls off sick or a position can’t be filled, that means major problems for school districts. 

“The other day we had 36 drivers that were out,” McKinney said. “That’s 82 routes we had to try to cover because they have two or three.”

“We started the school year out well, then we lost a few,” said Sarah Pitts, Director of Transportation for Center Grove Schools. “They’ve left for other jobs.”

Pitts says employees are leaving for full-time jobs with higher pay.

Many schools have begun offering sign-on bonuses, paid-for training and increased hourly wages to keep up.

“The competition is really heavy right now,” Pitts said. “The ripple effect is we have staff like mechanics who can unfortunately, if we’re short drivers we have internal staff who can fill those spots temporarily.”

“We are filling 15-20 routes per day with subs and trying to cover them with different methods,” said Matt Miles, Director of Transportation for Lawrence Township Schools. “We sometimes, that means buses will be late.”

Lawrence Township drivers are doubling up on routes—meaning some students are having to arrive 20 minutes earlier or later to school.

Miles says while it’s a headache for students and parents, safety remains their top priority.

“We are certainly in this with you, parents,” Miles said. “We understand your pain. Sometimes when the bus is on a different schedule, it affects you at home and we understand that.”

Learn more about becoming a bus driver at Hamilton Southeastern, Lawrence Township or Center Grove by clicking the links.

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