Jan 6, 2022 - News

NWA schools need bus drivers

Illustration of a school bus cut out from a bright yellow background.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

NWA school districts are still struggling with a bus driver shortage.

Why it matters: Kids and their parents count on the public school system’s transportation to get to and from school. And a lack of drivers is straining some districts.

By the numbers:

  • Springdale has 25 openings of its 123 bus driver positions, spokesperson Mary Jordan tells Axios.
  • Fayetteville is about 9-10 drivers short, spokesperson Alan Wilbourn says.
  • Bentonville's website lists four open positions.
  • Rogers needs at least six more bus drivers but would like more, according to assistant superintendent Roger Hill.

State of play: School districts are hoping higher wages will entice people to apply for the positions. In the meantime, they're stretching their resources.

  • Drivers at Springdale Public Schools cover multiple routes for different grade levels daily. Other staff members, including principals and other administrators, are earning commercial licenses to drive the buses themselves, Jordan said.
  • Fayetteville is using every licensed bus driver, including administrators and mechanics, to drive double and triple routes in the mornings and afternoons, Wilbourn said. The district is hoping raises and bonuses approved for all staff members will encourage new drivers to apply.
  • Bentonville is managing OK, spokesperson Leslee Wright tells Axios. In October, Bentonville raised the starting hourly pay for drivers from $16.50 to $19.04 and from $11.28 to $14.21 for bus aides.
  • The Rogers district is covering driver shifts with mentors, mechanics or employees in the transportation office, Hill says.

Zoom out: Schools nationwide have been dealing with a bus driver shortage since the beginning of this school year.

  • Such factors as low wages, open truck driver positions and drivers opting not to expose themselves to COVID-19 contribute to the shortage, ABC News reported.

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