Recent school bus driver shortages are starting to affect student bus transportation to sports and other activities.

In some cases, student athletes have had to leave school earlier than planned to get to competitions and allow bus drivers enough time to get back and run afternoon bus routes.

“Decisions to leave early for games or push game times back are often made the day of, and coaches are working last minute to communicate to players and parents,” said Samantha Symonds, assistant girls softball coach at Battle High School.

“The bus might have been a little late before, but that was more of a communication issue than simply not having enough bus drivers,” Symonds said. “This situation is completely new to all of us.”

Game schedules and transportation needs vary by sport, and coaches have been told buses needed toward the end of the school day are now unable to leave until after all school bus routes have been completed, she said.

“We have a tournament in the Lake of the Ozarks this week, and we’re having to drive ourselves instead of taking school buses,” Symonds said Thursday. “Coaches are helping drive, and some families have larger vans that we’re using, so we can shuttle ourselves and the girls don’t have to miss more school than they need to.”

There is a national shortage of school bus drivers brought on in part by the pandemic. In Columbia Public Schools, some routes are delayed or not run, forcing families to figure out how to get their children to and from school.

The district encouraged families recently to have a Plan B in place for transportation. District spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said schools are being “solution-based throughout the entire process.”

“If parents can’t find an alternative way to get their students to school, they’ve been asked to contact their child’s school and make the school aware of the situation,” she said. “We’ve had our home school communicators or an administrator offer to come and pick the child up, or another bus can circle back later and pick up the child as well.”

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  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and

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