HOLLAND, Mich. — A lack of bus drivers forced Holland Public Schools to cancel multiple routes and left hundreds of students without transportation during the first week of school.
“This has actually been a problem that we ended the school year with last year,” said Jason Craner, director of marketing and communications. “The last four days of the school year last year, we had to cancel bus routes because of a lack of bus drivers.”
According to Craner, between 15 and 20 routes were called off, which impacted about 150 students each day. While some managed to find a ride, Craner says the district noted fewer children in their seats.
“We’ve seen a decline this week in our attendance, about 91 percent down from last year for the first week for a couple of percentage points,” said Craner. “We alternated which routes were canceled to make sure that kids were able to get in. It wasn’t the same kids missing school all week.”
Craner says the district needs fifteen drivers to operate smoothly but as of Friday only had six on staff, including a high school English teacher who stepped in to help.
“He says he’ll do it until we don’t need him,” said Craner. “Of course we want him in the English classroom and with students.”
The lack of drivers is not unique to Holland Public Schools. Districts across West Michigan have dealt with the issue for years.
The district is trying to incentivize applicants, including offering to pay for their CDL licenses, but with so many other businesses hiring, the perks only go so far.
“We’re paying at starting rates right now between $18 per hour to over $20 per hour,” said Craner. “We’re looking to increase that. We’re also looking to ways where we can creatively make bus drivers full time so that we can offer benefits with this position as well.”
Craner hopes people look at the job as a way to help their community.
“It’s the way that many students, the only way, that they have to get to school,” said Craner. “Then you think about who those students are. They’re the students who need the buses the most, and they need to be in school the most. Many of those students are getting their best meal of the day at our schools too.”
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