BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Boulder Valley School District says school bus driver shortages, construction traffic and bad weather led to a situation Friday night in which students had to wait more than 45 minutes outside in the rain for a bus.
“That doesn’t live up to our expectations. We don’t ever want to have students have to wait out in the rain,” district spokesman Randy Barber said.
According to Barber, five separate buses should have been scheduled to transport students from the Fairview High School football team and marching band back and forth for their game at Christian Recht Field. However, because of a shortage of drivers, the available buses had to make multiple trips to shuttle everyone.
“That wasn’t a big issue on the front end of the game. They got there safely and all that kind of thing but on the back end, unfortunately, because of traffic, there was some construction in the area, the second tier kind of got tied up and unfortunately our students had to stand out in the rain while they were waiting to be picked up,” Barber said.
He said that while this is an isolated incident, it does highlight the district’s struggle to meet the district’s bussing needs.
“The truth of the matter is that we are very tight. We have a bus driver shortage right now. There’s about a 50-person shortage,” Barber said.
BVSD employees have to fill in for bus drivers
He said it used to be that BVSD would have about five openings for drivers each summer. In recent years, the number of vacant driver positions has skyrocketed. Barber attributes the problem to higher paying opportunities for drivers elsewhere.
In an effort to keep buses running, other district personnel, including dispatchers, mechanics and administrators, step in daily to fill in.
“These mechanics are having to stop what they’re doing for a little bit, go run a route, come back and do that work. That’s tough,” Barber said.
While BVSD has not had any disruptions to regular bus routes, Barber said the district is “a couple” of sick calls away from the shortage impacting routes.
“I think we are warning parents. It is tight and there is a possibility, as much as that’s not what we want, that there might be a day where we just don’t have the drivers and they have to be prepared for that,” he said. “We’re right against that line of how many drivers we need in order to run those routes.”
Bus driver shortage impacting districts around the metro
Districts across Colorado are facing similar staffing challenges.
Denver Public Schools is also short about 45 drivers. The district recently increased starting wages to $24.40 per hour for drivers with a commercial driver’s license in an effort to recruit and hire more drivers.
“While staffing for drivers is challenging, this has been the trend for more than five years. We have been preparing for the shortages for many years and our home-to-school and school-to-home services have not been cut for our students. DPS partners with charter services for athletics and excursions that can not be covered due to operational constraints,” DPS spokesman Scott Pribble said in a statement.
In August, Jeffco Public Schools told FOX31 it was short 75 drivers to start the 2022 school year. Multiple short-term, long-term and indefinite route cancellations have been posted to the district’s website because of staffing shortages. In 2021, the Jeffco school district suspended nearly 30 routes, forcing parents to provide alternate transportation for their children.
Douglas County School District is facing a similar shortage. According to a district spokesperson, DCSD is currently looking to fill 71 bus driver positions. The district has had to cancel two routes because there are not enough drivers.
In August, Cherry Creek School District said it was down 10 drivers. In a statement to FOX31 on Wednesday, a district spokesperson said while CCSD is still hiring for the open positions, “we have all of our routes covered and there is not a significant impact to students.”