School bus driver seats remain empty as classrooms fill

School bus lot in Cincinnati
Posted at 6:39 AM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 14:35:16-04

Classrooms across the Tri-State will be full in a few weeks, but school bus driver seats will be empty as school districts across the Tri-State face a driver shortage.

A few years ago, the Kenton County School District started combining bus routes and they bought larger school buses to make up for the lack of drivers. However, district spokeswoman Jesse Dykes said, they still need drivers.

"We have enough bus drivers to run those routes, but we do need bus drivers," she said. "We're hiring."

To help draw drivers, the school district's board voted to raise wages for drivers to make them more competitive with larger companies. Drivers now start at $17.50 an hour, but drivers with experience can make up to $27 an hour.

Cincinnati Public Schools faces a bus driver shortage as well as issues with bus routes.

School board member Eve Bolton said the director of pupil transportation for the district didn't renew their contract with Metro for XTRA routes, which gives bus service to about 6,000 children between the seventh and 12th grade. Metro said this and the driver shortage means students will have to ride the regular bus route to get to school.

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Cincinnati Public Schools is against this, and the board plans to discuss this at their meeting Wednesday.

Bolton is also concerned about children getting hit by cars while they wait for buses along the regular routes.

"You’re going to have hundreds of students, dismissed at the same time, waiting in 10-minute intervals... on Madison, on Glenway," she said. "That’s going to be more than a disruption.”

Cincinnati Public Schools doesn't have its own bus fleet, but it subsidized driver salaries during the pandemic for its vendors, and this seemed to work. CPS is still hiring drivers, as are these school districts:

Kenton County School District
Boone County Schools
Kings Local Schools
Mason City Schools
Lakota Local School District
Oak Hills Local School District.