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Eugene schools cutting bus routes over driver shortages

Families are left scrambling, looking for ways to get their children to school.

Posted: Sep 24, 2021 6:15 PM
Updated: Sep 24, 2021 6:20 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Eugene School District 4J has had to cut bus routes this school year, and it's all due to an ongoing bus driver shortage.

In fact, the district is looking to hire roughly 25 new school bus drivers to fill the gap.

"We had to eliminate routes to make things happen," said transportation director Arthur Hart. "We had nine routes to begin this year and that meant we consolidated a lot of stops. Fewer stops, farther apart and that has affected a lot of families."

Hart said the school bus driver shortage has been going on for several years now but has been put on the spotlight during the pandemic.

RELATED: SCHOOLWATCH: ONLINE OPTIONS FILLING UP, NEW TECH TACKLES COVID-19 AND MORE

"The pandemic has really compounded a lot of things and it's really highlighted the need for bus drivers at this time," Hart said.

Officials said the shortage has put a strain on not only them but also on the students.

"The hardest part I think is not being able to establish a routine for the kids," said transportation supervisor Cory Samuelson.

Families are also left scrambling, trying to find ways to get their kids to school.

Ashley Robertson, a parent of a student in the Marcola School District, said two of her son's bus drivers retired. 

"We've had to take him ourselves," Robertson said. "We normally rely on the transportation or the bus to take him back and forth. It's a pretty decent struggle because one, my car doesn't get the best gas mileage in the world and two, it was the school's decision between Marcola and Lane School to send him to Lane School in Eugene and it kind of wasn't in our budget."

Starting Monday, Marcola School District has arranged private transportation services to get Robertson's son to and from school. But for many families, this isn't an option.

4J hopes they can get every child to school and return to full service.

"There's quite a bit that goes into being a school bus driver but the only thing that really matters it that you really care for the kids," said Hart. "We can help you get a (Commercial Drivers License). We can help you with everything there is to know about being a bus driver."

Once hired, the district will pay new trainees to complete a three-to-four-week training and mentorship program. Officials said most routes require five to eight hours of work each day but additional hours are available throughout the day and in the summer.

RELATED: BROWN ORDERS TEACHERS, HEALTH CARE WORKERS TO BE VACCINATED

Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, students and drivers must wear masks at all times on buses. In addition, district employees are required to fully vaccinated before Oct. 18 per Gov. Kate Brown's order.

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