LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — The Leander Independent School District recently issued an apology to families because of problems caused by a shortage of bus drivers.
However, in a letter sent out Oct. 16, the district discussed how it’s addressing these issues.
The letter stated, “We know that a shortage of bus drivers, logistical issues and higher-than-expected enrollment presents challenges to our families and our transportation department.”
District spokesperson Matt Mitchell told KXAN that there are currently more 50 openings for bus drivers because of the rapid growth at Leander ISD.
“We need bus drivers because we have an awful lot of students,” Mitchell said. “We have already exceeded our projected enrollment for the entire school year, and we’re only in the second full month of school now.”
In the letter, Leander ISD provided the four following fixes:
- Adjusting routes and schedules as needed to maximize efficiency.
- Having staff members drive buses when necessary to cover routes.
- Aggressively working to hire more drivers with incentives, top pay and benefits.
- Examining changes to bell schedules that would potentially allow drivers to run three routes, one for elementary, middle and high schools.
The district explained that it sometimes has to “double” bus routes. That means if there’s no driver available for a particular route, then another driver may have to cover it once he or she completes his or her regularly scheduled trip. Leander ISD warned families that this could cause delays.
James Retzolk works as the foreman at the district’s bus shop. He and the other mechanics have the additional responsibility this school year of driving a bus route because of the lack of drivers. Many district employees are doing the same thing to make sure the pick-ups and drop-offs run smoothly and on time.
“It kind of cuts into our schedule of working on buses,” Retzolk said, “but due to the fact that we do have a dedicated staff — some of them work extra hours — we do as much as we can in between the routes.”
The district also stated in its letter that it would work to improve communication with families about delays or double bus routes.
It promised to “send an email and a text message when a delay in pickup or dropoff exceeds 15 minutes,” according to the letter.
If a route is doubled, the district stated that communication to families would now include the route affected, the replacement bus that will drive the route and the expected delay in picking up students.
The Leander ISD Board of Trustees agreed last year to raise the starting pay of bus drivers to attract more applicants since there previously had been a shortage. However, Mitchell said there are not as many people looking for work right now due to low unemployment.
“Nothing is more important to us than transporting our children safely to and from school and in an efficient manner,” Mitchell said, “and we’re just looking for some folks to help us do that.”
Anyone interested in the bus driver openings can find more information about applying on the Leander ISD careers website.