Bus driver shortage prompts SLPS to suspend service for 8 schools

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 2:55 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – Saint Louis Public Schools are suspending some school bus services ahead of the first day of classes.

In a Monday afternoon press conference, school leaders announced they would suspend bus service for eight different schools in the district. They said the suspension is because of the ongoing bus driver shortage and that it will only be temporary. It is not expected to impact students with special needs.

“I just feel like they’re letting parents down. I feel like they don’t care,” Kallie Goodsite said.

Goodsite has an incoming junior at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School (CVPA). She’s one of many families who’s impacted by this bus shortage. In May, she told News 4 a bus hadn’t picked up her student for weeks.

“They promised that they would have it figured out by the time school started,” Goodsite explained.

It’s a week before the first day of school and the single, working mother just found out she has to take her teenager to and from school for at least two weeks. She’s not alone. The district said more than 3,300 students will be impacted.

Families who have students at Mallinckrodt, CSMB, Betty Wheeler, Roosevelt, Gateway, Vashon and Sumner are expected to find rides. SLPS will offer $75 gas cards for families driving students to school if they have perfect attendance. The district will issue reimbursements every Friday. For high schoolers, free Metro Bus passes will be offered to offset the hassle.

“I am not letting my child ride the city bus because I think I’m afraid she might not make it home,” Goodsite said.

Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams said he believes they have safety under control and that all of the kinks are worked out.

“We feel comfortable right now that we have a plan in place with our partners, Metro and the police department, to address outstanding issues,” Adams explained.

As for hiring, Missouri Central, SLPS’ bus service, said they’re working to bring more drivers on as soon as possible. It’s a training process, that they said takes weeks.

“The beginning phase of that is your CLP, your learners permit, where you learn to drive a school bus. Then the next phase is the behind-the-wheel piece,” Scott Allen said.

Allen, with Missouri Central, said they’ve been working diligently over the summer to hire bus drivers. He said they have some in training now, but still need about 65 more. School leaders said they believe this shortage will only impact routes for the first two weeks of school.

“If it was gonna be solved, they would’ve solved it over the summer,” Goodsite said.

As for after-school care, SLPS said they won’t have this for high schoolers. For younger kids, they said they believe they can manage before school care starting an hour ahead of school start time. They’re still working things out for after-school programming.