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Nationwide bus driver shortage impacting school transportation in Santa Maria

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Posted at 6:40 PM, Aug 04, 2022

With the start of school just a week away, a shortage of bus drivers has forced some parents in Santa Maria to find new ways to get their kids to class.

While the Santa Maria Bonita School District says COVID-19 infections brought their number of drivers down last school year, district public information officer, Maggie White said another impact of the pandemic has led to the same issue.

"A lot of people found other work during the covid shutdown or found other things that they would prefer to do to make a living. And being a bus driver is a big responsibility." White admitted.

She said the three to six-month process of becoming a licensed school bus driver has reduced the number of available drivers in their district.

As a result, Santa Maria Bonita is taking new measures to bring some relief to local parents.

"We are providing extra crossing guards at the busiest streets and intersections." Maggie White added. "We do want to try to alleviate some of that inconvenience for our families and their children so we can get them to and from school safely, and on time."

One Nipomo mother said the same issue has extended to the district where her kids attend school.

"It has been rough, actually. In Nipomo, we have had a shortage as well. And sometimes they call me and are like, 'Nobody is able to bring your son back."' Elizabeth Steen-Larsen told KSBY.

White said a select number of bus routes will remain in service.

"We would only be able to provide bussing for our special education students to and from school, and students from a handful of other schools who do live 1.2 miles away from their school."

White adds that as more bus drivers gradually become available, they will begin reinstating more routes throughout the district. But for now, officials with Santa Maria Bonita said the shortage could continue over the next few months.

District officals said the updated walking routes are still being finalized. Parents will be notified as soon as they are made available.