Local school districts dealing with bus driver shortage

Education

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — Many local school districts are dealing with bus driver shortages causing delays with pickups and drop-offs.

The first day of school is always rocky but Niagara Falls Schools superintendent Mark Laurrie said it’s never been this rocky. He said the school year started off great aside from the transportation problem.

Buses have been very, very, very late I’m talking on day one an hour and 20 minutes, and on day two an hour,” Laurrie said.

He said he expected this and tried to warn parents ahead of time.

“I own it, I accept it. It wasn’t acceptable, those are the reasons we’re working to get better. It was pre-announced but still you send your child you expect them home at a reasonable time.”

He said the issue mostly revolves around a driver shortage. The district hired 10 drivers in the past couple of days and he’ll be meeting with the Niagara Falls peacemakers to discuss having them on buses and at stops to help drivers.

But he said there’s something else parents can do to help.

“Our bus drivers have been trained and told you can’t just leave a young elementary child waiting. Elementary parents can help this by being ready to accept their child at a reasonable time after school so that in turn the buses can get to high school.”

Niagara Falls isn’t the only district facing these issues. Jonathan Rich’s daughter is a middle schooler in the Williamsville district and said they’re also struggling.

“After school yesterday about 50 kids were stuck outside of school for around 45 minutes. My daughter texted me and said, ‘hey I’m here,’ and I picked her up,” said Rich.

Superintendent Dr. Darren Brown-Hall also addressed parents in a video message Wednesday.

“Parents, we appreciate your patience as we work through our transportation concerns. We’re working diligently with our transportation department to try to smooth out some of the operational concerns,” Dr. Brown-Hall said.

The Buffalo Public School District is also dealing with these issues and the superintendent said 18 drivers out of 515 resigned over the past 10 days.

He said First Student interviewed 192 potential new drivers and expect 30-40% of them to be hired. He released this statement:

“We appreciate the patience parents are demonstrating as we transport students by bus to their re-opened schools. We expect in the days to come that most of our transportation delays caused by the national bus driver shortage and the typical issues associated with the first days of school will be resolved or significantly improved. With regard to our drivers, about 18 drivers out of 515 were reported to have resigned over the past 10 days; however, First Student has interviewed 192 potential new drivers and expect that about 30% – 40% of these will make it through the final hiring process. As the second largest district in New York State, I commend our transportation department for their extraordinary performance under extraordinary circumstances.”

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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