For the first time, Mission Public Schools cancelled bus routes due to a lack of staff. District 75 superintendent Angus Wilson says several bus routes were cancelled each day last week (Jan. 3-6) with an additional route cancelled on Monday (Jan. 9).
“In my time with Mission Public Schools, we’ve never actually cancelled bus routes because of a driver shortage,” Wilson said.
The school district was forced to make rolling cancellations to bus routes. Wilson says cancellations are prioritized based on the missing driver’s route
“If your bus is cancelled today then tomorrow, we cancel [a different] route,” he said. “We prefer to keep people on their own routes because it makes a lot of sense but we do [shuffle drivers around] so we can be a little bit more equitable with the cancellations.”
The school board has had to reach deep into its bench to avoid shutting down bus routes in the past. Wilson says the school district’s transportation manager and mechanic have been driving buses to fill the void as well as casual drivers and a former bus driver brought back from another department.
“We’ve gotten really close to cancelling a number of times in the last four years,” Wilson said. “We sent out letters both last year and this year to parents to let them know that it’s pretty tight.”
The district had several drivers in training over the past few weeks and they’re now through training and ready to take over routes as of Thursday (Jan. 12).
When a bus route is cancelled, Wilson says students are encouraged to find another way to get to class if possible, but schools are made aware of the situation.
“We can let the school know that there will be a transportation issue so if the [students] don’t show up to school, we know the reason why.”
The school district’s staffing shortage has not been exclusive to transportation. However, Wilson says things have improved during this school year in other areas.
“We’re actually in better shape this year than we were last year in terms of things like teacher shortages,” Wilson says. “That isn’t to say that it’s perfect or as good as pre-pandemic but we’re actually better off than what we expected.”
The school district will continue to recruit new drivers, but cancellations due to staff shortages could still be possible.