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Lack of bus drivers results in SLPS students being left at home and school

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 10:25 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - Bus driver shortages have been an ongoing issue plaguing schools across the country. However, some families here in St. Louis are really feeling the wrath of that shortage. In the last few weeks, News 4 found some St. Louis Public School students who weren’t getting picked up or dropped off from school. The district’s reasoning was a lack of bus drivers.

“It was two weeks of her not having a bus,” Brittany Boyd said.

“She hasn’t been to school since last Friday, so that’s a whole week. You’re hurting her education,” Kallie Goodsite explained.

Goodsite and Boyd are both single mothers who have students in the SLPS district. They ride First Student buses to and from school.

“My grandmother’s responsible to put my daughter on the bus. That Monday morning around 8:30 she called me and told me her bus hadn’t come yet,” Boyd said.

Boyd has a third grader. She said she called the school and First Student several times after she said her daughter wasn’t picked up two weeks straight. At the time, third graders were doing required standardized testing. Boyd said it’s essential for her daughter to get to school on time. However, it wasn’t just Boyd who was impacted by the driver shortage.

“She would call me about 1:45 when I was at work, and she would say ‘My bus isn’t gonna be here. They just let us know. You need to come pick me up.’,” Goodsite explained.

Goodsite said she had to leave work early more than once to pick up her high schooler because of a lack of bus drivers. So, for the last week, she’s had to keep her daughter home from school since she said the school couldn’t guarantee her daughter would have a ride home.

SLPS leaders said the district is short about 20 drivers and said it’s been an issue all year.

“We are doing everything we can to try and make it work, but at the end of the day, the numbers just don’t add up. We have fewer drivers than we do bus routes,” George Sells said.

Sells is the communications director for SLPS. He said they’ve consolidated routes and are offering alternative transportation for students like cabs or Uber. Sells also said the school lets families know two hours ahead of pick up or drop off if a bus isn’t coming.

“I’ve never received a notification via phone or email that a bus was not going to arrive that morning. It was a mystery for me,” Boyd said.

Goodsite said she never got notified from the school either.

“She gets out at 2:07 and she will call me or text me at 1:45 and say ‘Mom the bus isn’t coming’,” Goodsite explained.

News 4 made multiple attempts to reach out to First Student. No one returned News 4′s phone calls. Instead, they sent us the following statement.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for student transportation providers. We continue to work all available channels for recruiting efforts.”

Some parents said First Student needs to be held accountable.

“I’m sorry, but it’s not my problem. My problem is making sure my child gets the best education,” Goodsite said.

For now, both Goodsite and Boyd said they’d like to see a change with communication from the school and First Student.

“I want the school to be more transparent with the parents, and if you don’t know, find out,” Boyd said.