As a shortage in school bus drivers continues, families in Columbia Public Schools were told Tuesday to have a plan B for getting their children to school if necessary.

A letter to families said the district and Student Transportation of America, a national company that handles school busing, are “working together to shift drivers and run the scheduled bus routes. In the event STA cannot run the route as planned, we ask that you have an alternative plan in place to get your student to and from school.”

“The current driver shortage may also mean buses are running very late or in some circumstances not running a specific route at all,” the letter stated. “While (STA) ... does employ substitute drivers, it is possible that there may not be enough drivers to cover all our bus routes each day.”

The shortage is national and driven by concerns about pay and risk in a pandemic. A survey of 1,500 school transportation professionals conducted by the National School Transportation Association found that more than half described their shortage as severe, half said pay was a major factor in finding drivers and 38% cited lack of benefits, the Missourian has reported.

At a meeting of the Columbia School Board on Monday, Superintendent Brian Yearwood noted the role COVID-19 has played in the local shortage. The district letter to families even urged people who have ever considered driving a bus to apply.

The shortage is affecting running district activity and sports routes, too. In some cases, athletes are having to leave school earlier to travel to games so the drivers can get back in time to take kids home from school.

Southern Boone School District in Ashland is also looking for drivers. It announced on its Facebook page that it’s hiring part-time bus drivers for athletic events and school routes.

  • Youth Reporter, fall 2021 Studying magazine journalism Reach me at sadhnh@umsystem.edu or, in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • 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 brixeye@missouri.edu.

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