LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Twenty-nine Jefferson County Public Schools bus routes were delayed unexpectedly Monday, coming close to matching the 42 planned delays this week.
A notice from JCPS obtained by WDRB News early Monday indicated that three buses would run an hour and a half late because of the ongoing driver shortage and unexpected absences.
The 29 delays affected 23 schools, according to Communications Manager Mark Hebert. Last week, JCPS said 30 drivers were completing certification classes and would undergo testing during Labor Day week.
John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783 that represents JCPS bus drivers, said he believed unexpected delays would continue at JCPS through the first few months of the 2022-23 school year that kicked off Aug. 10 as more drivers join the district and familiarize themselves with their routes.
“It’s going to take three to four weeks before they get enough,” Stovall said of the district’s bus driver shortage.
“They keep saying they have two classes getting ready to graduate, and maybe they do, but it’s going to be hard to throw them out there right off the bat because they haven’t driven those routes, they don’t know where the route’s at, they don’t know what part of town they’re going to be in.”
JCPS has reported more than 40 route delays in recent weeks, and Stovall believes the district needs about 200 drivers to be fully staffed.
Losing drivers to illness and other unplanned absences leave JCPS in “a big bind because they’re scurrying to make sure they get to kids picked up and dropped off in a timely fashion,” Stovall said. Pulling drivers from different compounds to ensure all routes are covered may also add time to delays, he said.
“Are they able to do it out of that same compound or do they have to drag somebody from another compound who has to drive another 20 minutes to get there and then another 20 minutes?” he said. “That makes it 40 minutes late on a route, and those are the kinds of things that make it real hard on them.”
The pay for JCPS bus drivers is “not bad,” but student behavior and mandatory masking on buses pose challenges in hiring and keeping drivers, Stovall said.
“You’ve got 65 kids. They’re not all saints,” Stovall said.
JCPS is one of four large school districts across the U.S. with masks required in response to COVID-19, according to data aggregator Burbio. The district’s COVID-19 protocols call for optional masking if Jefferson County is in “green” or “yellow” of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s community level metrics that take coronavirus caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths into account.
“You’re constantly trying to watch the road, make sure other cars aren’t coming, and they look up in the mirror and see what’s going on behind them because if you don’t you can get in trouble for that,” Stovall said. “That’s a lot, and then you have the bad behavior. Then you have the issue with parents and neighborhood-related things colliding at bus stops, and a lot of them just say, ‘Hey man, I don't need this.’”
Covering multiple bus runs only exacerbates the stress of the job, he said.
“A lot of drivers just say, ‘I loved this job for years, but it’s not what it used to be,’” Stovall said.
Schools impacted by Monday’s delayed bus routes are:
- Westport Middle
- Carrithers Middle
- Seneca High
- Male High
- Farmer Elementary
- Wheeler Elementary
- Goldsmith Elementary
- Klondike Elementary
- Newburg Middle
- Jeffersontown High
- Price Elementary
- Georgia Chaffee Teenage Parent Program
- Wellington Elementary
- Cane Run Elementary
- Smyrna Elementary
- Rangeland Elementary
- Ballard High
- Kammerer Middle
- Doss High
- Waggener High
- Stuart Academy
- Valley High
- Minors Lane Elementary
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