SAN DIEGO — School is back in session, but several school districts in San Diego County are facing a shortage of bus drivers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This, by far, is a monumental year for school bus driver shortages,” said Tim Purvis, Transportation Director with Poway Unified School District. “We saw an increase in number of retired drivers as a result of COVID.”
Purvis says the district is dealing with a 12% driver shortage, which means fewer routes. Poway Unified is running 107 routes right now — typically, it’s 120 to 130 routes.
“Meaning buses are more full, fewer drivers, fewer buses, anxious parents,” Purvis said.
More than a hundred anxious Poway Unified families are now on a wait list to get bus passes. Purvis says the wait list is a first for the district.
“So a parent is having to find alternative transportation – which is very problematic,” he said.
Poway resident Lisa Kodrin is the mother of a middle schooler who just got off the wait list. She works full-time and her husband is deployed with the Navy. Kodrin says she doesn’t know how she’d manage if her son didn’t have a bus pass.
“He would be stuck or I would have to leave the office,” she said. “And that’s just not possible for me to drop my schedule every day to pick him up and commute 30 minutes.”
While many families are scrambling to find rides for their students, districts are working hard to recruit drivers — experienced or not.
“We need folks with clean driving records,” Purvis said. “We’ll do all the training, free of charge. We can get you behind the wheel after a recruitment in about seven to nine weeks.”