Nationwide bus driver shortage affects ArkLaTex districts
School officials say the need for more people behind the steering wheel is evident
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - School districts throughout the nation are experiencing a bus driver shortage. Officials say some of the problem stems from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
However, for Kassie Stelley, there’s no shortage of bad days when you’re carrying precious cargo.
“I love the kids. I love their smiles, I love their stories,” she said. “I love all the pictures that they draw and the little trinkets that they bring you. I get erasers and candy that’s been in their pockets and it’s so special.”
Stelley has been a a bus driver with Caddo Parish School District for the past two years. She says her role is more than just shuttling kids to and from school, she’s helping steer their minds in the right direction for the day ahead.
“You’re the first person they see. If they’ve had a bad day at home, you’re able to cheer them up and make them smile and change their outlook on their day.”
As the pandemic continues and the Delta variant ramps up throughout the United States, the need is still present for more drivers like Stelley.
Jeff Roberts, transportation director for Caddo public schools, says his district is no exception to the shortage. “We do need 20 to 25 drivers. That would establish our sub pool.”
Until those positions can be filled, staff have to find away to make their current resources work.
“It’s a lot of moving parts. Covering this bus here, splitting routes,” Roberts explained. “The biggest thing it affects is our timing. If we’re having to cover a route, we may be running behind.”
Roberts said Caddo is not offering an incentive program to recruit more drivers. The School District’s next bus driver driver training event will be held Aug. 10.
According to the 2021 School Transportation Survey by HopSkipDrive, COVID-19 is enhancing the issue throughout the country. More than 80% of the survey’s respondents from districts throughout the country say the ongoing bus driver shortage is definitely a cause for concern that the pandemic is making worse.
However, the lack of drivers in Caddo is not a problem for Stelley because she’s upholding a legacy of protecting children. Her mom, Glynda Stelley, was a bus driver for Caddo Parish Schools for 44 years, the longest on record for the district. Glynda Stelley died last year.
“I got to drive with her a little while, got to do a couple of field trips. I got her route last year and got the honor of doing that for a year,” said Stelley.
She added that her mom’s dedication is why she’s in it for the long haul. “I hope to hopefully get as many years as she did and retire and drive grandkids of the kids that I started driving. It’s very special, very special.”
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