Springfield Public Schools: 1,500 students could lose bus service after transportation change amid bus driver shortage

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 7:00 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2021 at 10:18 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Nearly 1,500 students in Missouri’s largest school district could lose a ride to school in the upcoming weeks due to a transportation change announced Friday.

Springfield Public Schools has notified parents that the district is changing its transportation plans next month amid a national bus driver shortage. An announcement sent to parents Friday said the change is due to “circumstances beyond our control.”

The change is set to begin Nov. 8. Leaders have not yet confirmed how long the change could impact the district, but noted it was “temporary.”

“Effective Nov. 8, elementary and K-8 school students must live 2 miles or more from school and middle and high school students must live 2.5 miles or more from school to be eligible to ride the bus for the foreseeable future,” according to the announcement sent Friday.

Parents who are directly impacted were sent a separate email, in addition to the district’s general announcement Friday afternoon.

The change leaves many parents scrambling for plans to get their children to school safely.

“Trying to get my nine-year-old to walk to actual school, it’s going to be like 2.3 miles to get there, and I can’t put him through that,” said Cassie Kuhl, a parent impacted by the change. “And I have no way, like I came here from Joplin originally. I have nobody around here I know that could get him. So I was highly upset with it.”

According to leaders of Springfield Public Schools, the nationwide bus driver shortage and competitive job market have created challenges for recruiting and retaining bus drivers. In August, the district announced multiple incentives for bus drivers in order to stay competitive with other schools and industries.

“We started the school year understaffed in our transportation department, but it was our hope that aggressive recruitment efforts and offering increased wages, benefits and other incentives would help us hire and retain bus drivers. While we have recruited new bus drivers, the competitive job market has resulted in the loss of other bus drivers. This means we have fewer drivers than we did when school started,” said the district in an announcement to parents.

Kuhl said she understands the difficult decision the district had to make but said she is frustrated with the short notice.

“It’s very short notice, and the fact that they sent the email out on a Friday at 5 [p.m.],” she said. “So we can’t even contact anybody from the school to ask questions. Yeah, we can leave a voicemail on a number, but there’s no guarantee that anybody will call back. Now, we’re trying to scramble to figure out, what we are going to do in two weeks.”

Kuhl said she plans to talk to her employer to see if she can adjust her schedule. She said she mostly sympathizes with single parents who might be affected.

“I used to be a single mom, and I know how hard it is for single parents out there,” Kuhl said. “Moms or dads in distress, what they must be going through, has got to be 10 times more than I am. They could be a one-income household, and who knows what that’s going to do.”

Despite the change, students within the two-mile range who receive special services or are impacted by barrier streets are not expected to be impacted by this change.

For more information from the district on the transportation changes and potential bus driving job opportunities, CLICK HERE.

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