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Transport Trouble

Transport+Trouble

Lack of bus drivers causes multiple issues on and off campus

Cars are lined up for blocks and buses are missing drivers; this is the situation that plagues PRHS students and parents alike. Hundreds of cars crawl in like snails each PRHS morning under slow red lights, snarled traffic, dozens of cars lined up on Niblick every morning, and administrators who are forced to direct traffic with waving arms. Only one bus runs from San Miguel, down eight buses from the 2018-2019 school year.

“We don’t want transportation to be the reason somebody stays home and does distance learning”

Curt Dubost

Students who once needed buses are now forced to find their own way to get to school on time. Kids who live long distances and parents who relied on buses to transport their students to school now have to go out of their way to take their kids to school. So what caused this situation?

Facing a nation-wide shortage of bus drivers, members of the board had to find a way to circumnavigate the issue. The solution? Cut regular bus services entirely. While transports for sports and other activities would still be in service, the everyday student transport routes were cut, causing panic from parents and students.

“It’s a mess,” said senior John Seden-Hansen. “Without the buses the parking lot is so much more busy. It takes so long to be able to exit, and it’s harder to get to practices that are right after school.”

In a survey conducted by the National Association of Pupil Transport (NAPT), the bus driver shortage is not just a problem that plagues PRHS, but rather, the entire country. Over 75 percent of the schools in the country have altered bus services for students since the beginning of the year. Half of the schools have described the situation of missing bus drivers as severe, and 78% report the situation as getting worse.

So what does this mean for PRHS? Superintendent Curt Dubost reports that the school is currently short on seven of its typical nine bus drivers.

“People have to remember that driving the school bus can be a very thankless job,” Dubost said. “They were really frustrated by the conduct of the kids, while they were driving they felt unsafe by the disruptions and distractions in the back.”

At the bus yard on Golden Hill road, PRJUSD has a bus with a sign desperately asking for bus drivers, offering free training and better benefits for new hires.

The high school is trying to return its bus service as quickly as it can, and is currently running its route through San Miguel, which is one of the highest ridership routes. The plan laid out for a possible route includes running a bus to all the schools, where students could be picked up and dropped off at the schools, and then be able to walk home. While this isn’t the most ideal situation for students, it is a way to be able to give an opportunity for a ride to and from school.

Benefits for drivers have also increased as well. Increased pay, better benefits, and free training are a few of the things that have been introduced to help incentivise new drivers, and Dubost hopes that these will help be able to find new drivers to help bring back routes for students.

“I want to make sure that anybody who wants to drive can get a full time job with benefits,” Dubost said. “We have this brand new electric bus that’s sitting there unused, and all these other buses that are not usable, because we don’t have drivers for them.”

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