FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) —Students are well into the fall semester, and many local schools say they’re still looking for bus drivers.
Fayetteville, Bentonville, Siloam Springs and Huntsville school districts are hiring school bus drivers. In the last week, many of these districts had to make daily changes to bus routes to make sure each kid made it to school.
For Fayetteville Public Schools, Alan Wilbourn said cancelling a route is the last resort. Although when bus drivers are having to run back-to-back routes, kids may be getting home or to class hours late, and losing the consistency of having their same driver.
“In many cases you’re the first friendly face that child sees that morning when they get on the bus. You see them ands say ‘Hey, how you doing? Come on, let’s go to school’ and make it a pleasant trip for them,” said Wilbourn.
Wilbourn said he hopes the drivers they do have stay healthy so the bus routes don’t have to change and they can start building those relationships with their students.
“Hopefully we can get some more drivers recruited, but we also know we’re getting close to Flu season, and COVID-19 is still here, and so we’ve got to monitor all of those situations and do the best we can,” said Wilbourn.
He said the district recently increased drivers’ hourly pay by about four dollars, which has helped with hiring. Fayetteville Public Schools is still looking for six more drivers.
Wilbourn said the schools try to tell parents as early as possible if a bus route is changing because they know this can be frustrating for parents who’re trying to plan their day.
One district in Northwest Arkansas that is currently not struggling with the bus driver shortage is Decatur. The Decatur School District’s superintendent said one benefit of having a smaller district, is there are less bus routes, so by buying bigger busses, they’ve been able to avoid the school bus driver shortage so far.