AUSTIN, Texas - More than a month into the new school year, a shortage of bus drivers continues to impact Central Texans, which has led some districts to come up with some creative solutions.
Bastrop ISD is looking to hire 26 new school bus drivers amid an ongoing staffing shortage, but has kept route suspensions to a minimum by getting creative.
"We hope there will be people out there to answer the call," deputy superintendent Kristi Lee said.
One idea was utilizing other workers to fill the gap. "We have some office staff, quite a few," said Lee. "And mechanics, who all have CDLs, so we've been able to rotate them in and out of routes."
Another stopgap solution are "shuttle routes".
"If we have a route that we know is going to be canceled for a longer period of time, we've created a shuttle where another bus will come and pick up students at designated centralized dropoff locations," said Lee. "If it's a Texaco station or a Whataburger or Bucees, we talk to those business owners, and we say hey can we make this a centralized dropoff, and they've agreed to that."
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However, in Lake Travis ISD, the situation is more dire as they're still down several dozen drivers which is forcing them to continue cutting routes. Right now students within a two-mile radius have no bus service and others have the bus on a one-week-on, one-week off rotation.
Both districts are actively hiring, with Bastrop trying to sweeten the deal for prospective drivers. "Currently we have a thousand dollar signing bonus if you have no experience, five thousand dollars if you have a CDL, you're an experienced driver."
That appears to be paying off with 10 candidates currently in the hiring process.
"A bus driver is really the first person and the last person that a child sees, so it's a really important job," said Lee.