EUGENE, Ore. -- Some Eugene 4J families are being offered $200-$300 each month to transport their students to school instead of sending them on the bus. This comes amid a severe bus driver shortage that is taking place nationwide.
The offer is extended to eligible families who use Eugene 4J Transportation Services.
There's two groups who can take part: families of regular riders on bus routes that have been canceled. There's around 270 students in that category who have been invited to request reimbursement.
Also eligible are those on routes serving students with special needs. There's about 310 students who have been invited in that category, according to 4J.
Audrey Cramer has twin 4J high school students who have taken the bus to school since kindergarten.
"As a parent who has always been grateful for the bus drivers and the bus coming to pick up and drop off my kids, I'm happy to chip in and to take my kids to and from school," Cramer said. "I'm glad that 4J recognizes that parents need to be incentivized to do this, because it is an inconvenience. However, I'm really happy to help out as long as they need it and as long as I can do it."
Cramer praised Transportation Services for working toward making the experience as smooth as possible.
"Knowing that they've been dealing with the stress is remarkable," Cramer said. "Their morale and organization is really high."
KEZI spoke to a 4J parent with three students in three different schools. Each of their bus routes were canceled.
"Right now, I'm driving them to school, and I'm dropping off and picking up," Alicia said. "Some days it takes four to five hours a day."
She said understands the incentive but has had to turn down work shifts during the day to pick her kids up from school.
"I am concerned about the kids who don't have that option -- like the families who don't have transportation," Alicia said. "I think about them often.
She hopes other options are made available for those students and hopes public conversation can be held about how the district plans to adjust the bus schedules.
Brandy Collier also has three children within Eugene 4J. She opted in to drive her oldest daughter to and from school.
"Whatever we can do to help out the school and our neighbors," Collier said. "We're lucky enough to be able to do it, so we should."
Collier said a lot of juggling has to be done to balance her family's schedules, but she's grateful to have the ability to work from home. However, she understands not every family has that opportunity.
"It does come down to privilege that we have the privilege to be able to do this," Collier said. "I don't fault parents or think they're selfish for not being able to -- or having to go to work and whatever they do. If a parent can, I definitely think they should. We should work together to carpool."
In addition, Eugene 4J is extending major pay boosts for bus drivers and transportation staff, due to the bus driver shortage.
For transportation employees, the hourly wage is being increased by 25% through the 2021-2022 school year. Also, three $500 bonuses are being offered -- which will be paid in December, April and June. This applies to bus and van drivers, bus aides, dispatch support, mechanics, routers, route planning coordinators and trainers.
Eugene 4J said the goal is to keep bus routes shorter and less crowded throughout the significant shortage they’re facing.
This opportunity being offered toward families is by invitation only and will last until Eugene 4J is able to provide full service to students.