Howard County doesn’t have enough school bus drivers. And, according to this article by Talia Richman in the Baltimore Sun, we are not alone. Other counties are struggling with this issue as well. Ms, Richman shares a response from HCPSS spokesman Brian Bassett:
A Howard County schools spokesman said the district also faces a shortage of about three or four dozen drivers. Officials there have “leveraged several operational solutions to make up for the shortage that include scheduling buses to make multiple runs by serving schools that have different start and dismissal times.”
I don’t know how it works in other counties, but here in Howard the school system contracts out the various routes to a number of independent local bus companies. They, in turn, are tasked with recruiting, training, and supervising their fleet of drivers. I don’t think this is the first year that we’ve had a shortage of drivers. Is it possible that the system we currently have in place isn’t the best way to to this?
On the other hand, do we pay school bus drivers enough? What are their working conditions like? Do they receive adequate training and support on the job? Are they respected by their employers?
Oh, and one more thing: where do they live?
Howard County is a very expensive place to live. Can school bus drivers afford to live here? And, if not, how appealing would it be to have to commute daily to drive a bus in another county, very like on split shifts?
Not very, I would think.
If we want more school bus drivers, perhaps we need to think about what we need to do to grow more. Sadly bus drivers are often forgotten in the big picture of what makes a school system work. But clearly we can’t make it work without them.