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Bus driver shortage continues, leaving hundreds of students with limited options

paso robles school bus.JPG
Posted at 5:23 PM, Jul 13, 2022

With only 7 bus drivers and 3 substitutes, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is in a tough spot, facing the same bus driver shortage as last year.

They have reduced their prime number of routes from 15 to one.

"Right now, we are pretty much obligated to do special needs so we're using the team that we have to focus on special needs," said JP Camsuzou, Transportation Operations Manager for the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District.

That obligation is a federal mandate. School districts are required to supply special needs routes, which means all of their manpower is isolated to those commutes, leaving hundreds of kids with limited options for school transportation.

San Luis Coastal Unified School District has also seen a decrease in drivers but administrators say they're lucky that the impacts have been minimal.

"We haven’t cut any routes but we have consolidated a few routes, making the drive time longer for a few students," explained Phillip Tarver, San Luis Coastal Unified School District Transportation Supervisor.

The loss of drivers can't be blamed on anything but natural attrition but it’s the rehiring where they’re running into problems. Fifty hours of training tends to scare new hires.

"It's rigorous. It’s a rigorous process to go through, it takes a commitment, it’s a high standard. California has one of the highest standards in the nation for school bus drivers to be successful," said Kelly Stainbrook, Director of Transportation Maintenance Operations for the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District.

They’re not coy about how intense the training can be but they are also openly invested in new trainees' success. They want to make it abundantly clear you will not be alone in this process if you do decide to get behind the wheel and you might be surprised the joy the job brings.

"We offer free training, we will walk you through the licensing as much as we can, we'll hold your hand, we'll do anything we can to support you," Stainbrook said.

Another option the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is utilizing is van drivers. It only requires a class C driver's license and it is a dual position they are offering to paraeducators.