Aug 31, 2022 - News

Fort Bend ISD faces bus driver shortage

Illustration of a school bus with a grimacing emoji instead of a stop sign.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

School has been in session for three weeks, but Fort Bend ISD still needs drivers for nearly one-third of its bus routes.

Why it matters: Bus drivers ensure students get to and from school safely and on time.

Driving the news: FBISD has 111 bus driver vacancies.

  • Full-time staff members, including licensed dispatchers, mechanics and supervisors, are driving 44 of the district's 337 routes, and FBISD has contracted GoldStar Transit to cover the rest of the routes.
  • The patchwork system mostly works, but when someone calls in sick or there's a busy season with school sports, drivers have to cover multiple routes and students face longer wait times, said Mike Jones, FBISD's executive director of transportation.

Of note: FBISD is also trying to hire bus aides for routes with students with disabilities.

Zoom out: The bus driver shortage is a nationwide issue, and a lack of reliable transportation to school can impact student attendance.

  • About 88% of schools are dealing with bus driver shortages, according to a survey from HopSkipDrive, a school ride-service company.
  • The top reasons for the shortage are recruiting issues, pay and retirements.

Flashback: Districts, including FBISD, have been struggling to find bus drivers for years, even before the pandemic.

State of play: School boards have been bumping up bus driver salaries and offering incentives.

  • Pre-pandemic, a bus driver's salary at FBISD was around $17 per hour. The district increased it to $18.91 per hour this year.

What they're saying: "Even though we're shorthanded and it'd be nice to just be able to hire everybody that comes through the door, we're still particular about who we hire," Jones said. "What we do is very sensitive, and parents put a lot of trust in us to get their kids to and from school and home safely. The shortage has not caused us to lower our standards."

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