CORONADO, Calif .– A nationwide shortage of bus drivers is forcing school districts to take drastic action.
The Coronado Unified School District uses buses from the San Diego Metro Transportation System to get children to school. Approximately 50 CUSD elementary and high school students living in Coronado Cays, Naval Amphibious Base, and Lincoln Military Housing received MTS bus passes for the 2021-22 school year.
A five-year contract to provide rides for some students ended this summer due to a shortage of drivers and the uncertainty of COVID-19.
Isaiah Price has a 13-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son who are now taking public transportation to Coronado High School due to the shortage. He appreciates the option, but worries about the safety of his children.
“There’s a lot of risk involved and it’s a lot of responsibility for a 13-year-old girl, for my 13-year-old daughter and for a 12-year-old boy,” Price said. “They’re still my babies and it’s still a big, scary world out there.”
In a statement, school leaders said, “We realize that public transportation is not ideal for our students and we continue to explore alternative options to restore school bus service.”
CUSD is one of the many districts facing the shortage. Cajon Valley Union School District Transportation Director Tysen Brodwolf said she didn’t feel comfortable sending children on transit buses at this point. Instead, district supervisors take the wheel to transport students.
“We are able to break and double routes to get all of our students to school every day,” Brodwolf said. “My supervisor was actually driving this morning. The big impact we’ve seen is that our commute times have increased a bit. “
Down by seven drivers, this district has condensed the number of bus lines from 42 to 35.
Split shifts and low wages starting at $ 19.31 / hour can cause driver shortages.
“Our finances are not being replenished as our districts grow and that is a big concern,” added Brodwolf. “We are still struggling to maintain our fleet of equipment, to maintain our drivers and their training programs.”
Many school bus routes are also suitable for special education students. The CUSD said there was no change in transportation services for special education, but for Cajon Valley students, commute times could increase. Transport executives have said they are working to avoid this.
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