Angie Provo felt a little uneasy when she learned – nine days before the start of the 2021 school year – that Carmel Clay Schools would no longer be providing buses to transport her third-grade student to and from Forest Dale Primary School.
Because she and her husband both work full time, she knew it would be a logistical challenge to drop off and pick up their daughter each day. So when a neighbor jokingly suggested a carpool, she embraced the idea and put her professional skills to work creating a spreadsheet to solve the problem.
“If I could go from driving 10 times a week to setting up a schedule so we could all work together and figure out how we could each do one or two of those shifts, that would immediately reduce the burden by 100 % to 20%,” Provo said.
It looks like Provo’s ride-sharing spreadsheet will return next fall, as CCS officials believe it’s highly unlikely that “no-bus zones” will be eliminated anytime soon.
“I’m not optimistic that it’s going to go away for next year unless we have a mad attack from (bus hiring) drivers,” the CCS superintendent said. Michael Beresford, adding that he wouldn’t be shocked if the “community passes” with enough drivers to reverse.
Nearly 1,700 students living about 1 mile or less from their school campus have lost bus service for the 2021-22 school year, a move fueled by a years-long shortage of bus drivers compounded by the COVID pandemic -19 and other factors.
“It’s certainly been exacerbated by the broader labor shortage,” said CCS transportation manager Gary Clevenger.
In addition to creating bus-free zones, CCS has also adjusted school start times to allow a single bus driver to choose to run multiple morning and afternoon routes.
Despite a “banner hiring year” for bus drivers, Clevenger said it hasn’t been enough to restore bus service to every family that wants it. Ideally, with existing routes, CCS would have 150 drivers. It currently has about 130.
In part to encourage additional applicants and increase retention, CCS bus operators received the highest percentage increase in salary of any employee group in the district this year. Drivers earn $118 per day for running two routes, with the option to earn an additional $50 by adding a third. The schedule is flexible, with drivers able to hire in the morning, afternoon or both. Some drivers take on additional roles, such as in the cafeteria or as a teaching assistant, to become a full-time employee at CCS.
Beresford encourages anyone interested in driving a bus to apply a month or more before the start of the next school year to ensure they have enough time to complete the training and certification process before classes start. of autumn.
He said improved technology has made driving a bus much easier than in the past.
“If you can drive an SUV around a roundabout, you can drive a bus,” Beresford said.
Provo, who lives about 1 mile from his daughter’s campus, said his neighborhood’s ride-sharing system has been working well, despite the challenges posed by late start days, ice delays and other schedule disruptions. . Ideally, however, she would like to see bus service restored.
“We make it work, but not everyone has (several) other families who are able to get together on a carpool schedule,” she said. “So I imagine it’s a lot more work for some families than it is for us.”
Anyone interested in becoming a bus driver for CCS can contact Clevenger at [email protected] or by calling 317-844-8207.