ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Anne Arundel County Schools are facing a bus driver shortage to start the new academic year, causing concerns among parents at this week’s school board meeting.
“Students were guiding bus drivers on their routes, telling them which way they should be going,” Crofton Middle School parent Laticia Hicks said. “There are a number of school buses that come through our neighborhood. How are we supposed to know which bus to go on?”
County schools officials say the district’s contractors, which operate about 90 percent of buses, are faced with a shortage of drivers. The district is short about 20 drivers to start the school year.
District spokesperson Bob Mosier says the district is close to filling “a good amount” of those vacancies.
“You can’t get on the bus tomorrow. That process, again, for all the right reasons, has created a conundrum,” Mosier said Thursday, referring to the 20-day wait to perform background checks on new drivers.
At Wednesday’s school board hearing, parents from Bates Middle School complained of routes eliminated, overcrowded buses, and unreliable performance.
“If things aren’t running on time, we need to let parents know things aren’t running on time and why,” Superintendent George Arlotto said. “We’ve had to double-up runs and that’s the reason some buses have had more students and some buses have arrived late in the morning or afternoon.”
A recent study by the National Association for Pupil Transportation revealed 90 percent of school districts nationwide reported a bus driver shortage, according to a recent article from the education publication Education Week.
Parents informed school board members of two bus stops that were eliminated in the middle of the day Tuesday, Sept. 10. Buses picked up students in the morning and failed to drop take them back in the afternoon. District officials admit that is a problem, but say those stops are no longer needed and are within the 1.5-mile walking zone.
“One of those routes was a magnet program route and the other served a special education student,” Mosier said.