Yesterday, 7th grade Vista Middle School students participating on the Track Team learned via email from Track Coach Donald Pringle they would not be accompanying Vista 8th graders heading to a track meet at Nooksack Valley tomorrow. Pringle said a school bus driver shortage was the reason. “… we will only be able to take about 25 members of our team to Thursday’s meet. It has been decided that we will take the competition eligible 8th graders to the meet this Thursday,” Pringle explained in the email.
In another situation today, according to Ferndale School District Director of Athletics Eric Tripp, a Ferndale High School (FHS) softball game scheduled to be played at Nooksack was changed to be played at FHS since no transportation could be arranged for the Ferndale team.
District Director of Transportation Kelly Johnson says there is a national shortage of school bus drivers and Ferndale is not immune to it. “There is a national shortage for school bus drivers, public transit drivers and charter drivers. Even private companies are feeling the struggle to obtain qualified CDL drivers,” Johnson said in an email.
Spring is when they really feel the pinch according to Johnson. “The sheer volume of field trip requests during the spring sports season is staggering. We are overwhelmed trying to fill all these requests and are doing our very best to accommodate as many teams and events as we can.”
A recent purchase of transportation vans has helped for small group needs, Tripp said, but that doesn’t help the larger teams.
Tripp said he has even contacted local churches in the hope of finding affordable alternative transportation resources. Hiring a bus from a charter company, Tripp said, like what would be needed for the Vista Track team going to tomorrow’s track meet at Nooksack, would cost around $1,000.
School bus drivers not only transport students to and from field trips and sports events but are also needed to take students between home and their schools. Johnson explained, “Most of the high school and middle school [after-school] trips need to leave between 2 and 2:30. That time frame is right in the middle of taking Middle and Elementary kids home from school. Therein lies the problem.”
According to news reports across the country, the bus driver shortage has forced some school districts to reduce the number of routes they provide for transporting students between their schools and homes.
The District has trained, hired and retained 5 new drivers since September and there are 2 more potential drivers attending training according to Johnson. “Once a driver has been trained and is an official substitute bus driver for Ferndale School District, they are eligible to apply for any Bus Driver opening that should arise,” Johnson said.
Potential school bus drivers are encouraged to apply for the substitute bus driver position listed on the District’s online job listings.