As students are preparing to go back to the classroom, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is struggling with providing bus services.
The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is experiencing a bus driver shortage with no routes planned for the upcoming school year, leaving many working parents and families in a challenging situation.
“At this point, I just feel like we’re being cut off. We’re not being offered any options, not even limited options," said Georgia Brown Elementary School parent Carina Guzman.
Parents of students attending Paso Robles schools say they were never given notice about the lack of bus services.
“And so I started calling first the school asking if they were going to have bus routes. And they said they didn’t know if they were going to or not,” said Paso Robles High School Parent April Meredith.
As of now, the school district can only provide transportation for students with disabilities.
“When it comes to general education busing, that’s where we’re really going to struggle. We have 11 routes right now specifically for students with disabilities and we have eight drivers,” said Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Brad Pawlowski.
Pawlowski attributes the severe bus driver shortage to a lack of interest in the job. The school district is working with its labor partners to potentially increase the wages for bus drivers and they’re looking to hire more van drivers, because there’s less training involved.
“When we have two or three vans operating, that may be able to free up one bus driver,” Pawlowski said.
With many students making long commutes to Paso Robles schools, parents are having to make accommodations to their work schedule or even ask family members to help them get their kids to school long before class is even in session.
“In order to get my daughter to Paso, we’re going to have to loop all the way around Shandon and leave her there waiting at the school before the gates are even open for an hour and a half, hour and forty-five minutes,” said Paso Robles High School parent Hattie Davis.
Parents also raised concerns about the amount of time their child will be left unsupervised.
Davis added, “My child is 16-years-old, it gives them ample opportunity to get in trouble.”
In turn, the school district says it's doing everything it can to put general education bus routes into place, prioritizing San Miguel and Lake Nacimiento next. Parents hope the issue of busing is prioritized.
“Transportation is essential and we need to get our children to school,” Guzman said.
Until the school district gets enough drivers to cover those general education routes, district officials suggest parents consider carpooling within their own neighborhoods.