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School bus driver shortage causing route cancellations

Forest Hills Public Schools bus
Forest Hills Public Schools
Forest Hills Public Schools
School bus

What had been a decades-old problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

School districts are experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers. What had been a decades-old problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The problem so dire, bus routes are being cancelled.

The line of cars leading up to Collins Elementary stretches around the block. My daughter and I are in it. Principal Mitch Balingit is directing morning drop-off traffic

“With the cancellations we have close to 120 cars coming through in the morning.”

Forest Hills Public Schools suspending eight buses due to a driver shortage. That’s impacting well over a dozen routes.

“We’re making it work.”

Hundreds of district families juggling schedules.

“We try to carpool with other families if it works out, but a lot of us have different kids at different schools.”

Jackie Selleck is dropping of fourth grader Leah.

The pandemic causing a domino effect among bus drivers who have taken a leave over safety concerns or simply retiring early.

Taking a seat filling in behind the wheel are Administrators and mechanics who hold commercial driver’s licenses.

“It makes it hard to maintain our job along with driving buses because it does take a significant portion of our time each day to do that.”

Brian Jungnitsch is the head fleet mechanic at Forest Hills Public Schools

“With a high school and elementary run we’re looking at about four hours a day that it pulls you out of the garage.”

“In my 40-years, if I ever thought that I would have to tell a family, ‘I’m sorry we can’t get your children to and from school.’ I would have never believed that that would take place.”

Todd Sharp is Director of Transportation.

“And here we are, doing it locally, statewide and across the country. It’s just unprecedented times.”

The district is willing to think outside the box. One solution, deploying buses more efficiently replacing a two-tier bus routing system with three-tier. More routes with fewer drivers. But that would require restructuring the school day and bell times.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.