‘What is it going to take?’ Fox C-6 parents sound off about cut bus routes, school district shares efforts to recruit applicants

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 9:45 PM CDT
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ARNOLD, Mo. (KMOV) - Millions of children are kicking off the fall semester nationwide without a bus ride to school, and thousands of Fox C-6 school district students are feeling that same absence of a set of wheels.

District parent Terri Edwards said she is outraged the school district cut bus routes on August 5 – just a week before the start of the new semester.

“This isn’t a new issue,” Edwards shared. “We had a bus driver shortage last year.”

A lingering issue, crippling this school community. The school year kicked off Monday. For the last week, Edwards scrambled to figure out how to get her high schooler back and forth.

“I have set business hours, so to drive my child to school, I have to take time off of work,” Edwards said.

Fox C-6 school leaders blame the bus route changes on staff shortages.

“Believe me that’s the last thing we wanted to do,” Superintendent Dr. Paul Fregeau told a room of more than 100 parents Tuesday night.

Fregeau said 12 bus drivers are needed to get full bus service back online. In the meantime, students within a mile radius of elementary schools and a two-mile radius from secondary schools have lost their bus rides.

“We looked at consolidating bus routes to be more efficient,” Fregeau explained. “We looked at outside contractors, they can’t find drivers either.”

Words not sitting well with parents who attended Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The district touted a jobs fair recently that pulled in four applicants to be bus drivers. They will have to complete three-to-five weeks of training, then test to be certified by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Missouri State Highway Patrol. The problem there, Fregeau said, is that the state agency responsible for education is also having staffing shortages, slowing down the hiring process.

“So what’s it going to take?” parent Vonda Davis asked the school board during the meeting. “Are kids going to have to get hit crossing the street or have people stop coming to school?”

Pay was a common talking point among parents Tuesday night.

According to Fox C-6′s job posting online, a bus driver position pays $16.80 an hour. Nearby districts like Festus pay drivers, “At least $80 a day for four hours.” That is $20.50 an hour. Hillsboro R-III pays drivers between $16 and $18 per hour.

Some other solutions parents offered include adjusting start times, adjusting bus routes, and adding bike routes for students.

“I’ve seen individuals say they can carpool students, my question is if you’re willing to do it voluntarily, would you do it for compensation?” district parent Travis Lintner said.

“It’s not only a safety issue, it’s a community issue,” Edwards explained. “If we want our community to support our schools, we need to think about the impact on them as well.”

The school board approved before and after care supervision for students impacted by the bus route cuts. To make this happen, the district will give a $20 stipend to staff who provide that supervision.