AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lake Travis ISD announced some significant changes to its transportation services for the upcoming school year to deal with an ongoing bus driver shortage.
The district said it has done aggressive recruitment efforts and increased starting salaries to $23 per hour, but the shortage continues. LTISD announced in a letter to parents on Tuesday the following changes will be implemented, effective the first day of school, Aug. 16:
- Students who reside outside a two-mile radius from their home campus will be provided transportation on a rotating schedule, meaning bus service will be provided one week on and one week off. Bus schedules will be posted on the Lake Travis ISD Transportation Department webpage beginning Wednesday. Multi-student households may not necessarily be assigned similar schedules.
- Students who reside within a two-mile radius from their home campus will not be provided transportation; while this is not a popular decision to make, this is the most realistic option we can provide with the limited number of bus drivers currently on staff.
- Special services routes are not affected and will operate as normal.
“We sincerely appreciate your patience, understanding, and support as we continue to do everything possible to safely and efficiently meet the expected increase in student ridership while aggressively addressing our driver shortage,” LTISD said in a press release. “Rest assured, we will continue to monitor our transportation challenges daily and look forward to restoring additional services as conditions improve.”
The district had a full staff of 85 drivers before the COVID-19 pandemic, but now that number is in the 20s, according to LTISD Assistant Superintendent for Operations Brad Bailey.
“It’s been an extreme struggle to find those drivers,” Bailey explained. “It’s a very unpopular decision to make, we take no pride in making this decision. We just don’t have a choice.”
Bailey said the drivers they do have are doing multiple routes. He said the district knows the decision will put a strain on families, but the district is doing the best it can to accommodate.
“Are we going to have to Uber our son to and from school?” said LTISD parent Raymond Molina.
Texas law only requires school districts to provide transportation to certain special-program students, which LTISD is still doing.
Beginning Wednesday, parents may log into the SMART tag parent portal to determine if transportation services will be available to their child. If a parent has not registered for transportation services, there will be no route assigned.
“The parents aren’t the only ones who have to bend here,” said Misty Molina. “We understand the situation, but we also understand some of the accommodations should be made for us.”
Each of the district’s buses is outfitted with a Samsung tablet equipped with a Radio Frequency Identification reader, mobile connectivity and Global Positioning System. Similar to systems used in public transportation, students place their campus-supplied SMART tag ID badges on the tablet’s sensor when loading and unloading their bus. Badges will be distributed to students at the campus level during the first week of school.
If you or someone you know is interested in driving a bus for LTISD, contact its Transportation Department at (512) 533-6070 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. No experience is needed. The district will provide all training and full benefits, and drivers get holidays and summers off.