- Gray's Woods Elementary
- Gray's Woods Elementary School
Wanted: School Bus Drivers
Mirroring a national trend, the State College Area School District is starting the school year in need of more school bus drivers.
The shortage has prompted SCASD to eliminate five bus runs through consolidation, leading to longer travel times and late arrivals in some cases. Late-arriving students still receive breakfast and are not marked tardy.
Meanwhile, like school districts and private companies nationwide, the district is struggling to find replacements for drivers who retire or leave, despite increased advertising and a new contract last year that raised wages. Last month for the first time, the district sent a mailer to households highlighting employment opportunities for various staffing positions, including drivers.
“We’re actively seeking drivers,” SCASD Finance and Operations Director Randy Brown said. “Right now, we’re facing a real crunch that could make transporting students more challenging this year.”
So far, SCASD is covering the existing routes and providing transportation for all students who need it with its own employees and contracted drivers from local companies. Currently, the district employs about 40 percent of its drivers and contracts with the remaining 60 percent.
But if the shortage continues, SCASD might have to enact further changes to routes or expand how far students need to live from schools before becoming eligible for bus transportation. At present, the district maintains shorter eligibility distances than the state standards of 1.5 and 2 miles for elementary and secondary students, respectively. Enacting the state standards would reduce the number of eligible students for bus transportation, by increasing the number of student walkers. Students will not, as they are now, be required to cross hazardous roadways as defined by the state. Another consideration would be to allow parents the opportunity to opt out of district transportation, which again would decrease the number of students utilizing district transportation.
The bottom line: Though routes are currently being covered with the help of substitute drivers, all of whom have completed driver license, training and clearance requirements, the district needs more full-time drivers who become familiar with their vehicles, routes and students over time and thus grow more capable in their roles.
“Safety for our students is of the utmost importance at all times,” Brown said. “We ensure that our drivers are trained in order to provide safe transportation. This training is provided to our employees as well as our contracted bus drivers.”
Brown added that parents should always feel free to contact the district’s transportation department or call 814-231-1033 with any concerns other than student behavior issues, which should be addressed by school principals.
By Chris Rosenblum
Photos by Nabil K. Mark
Published Sept. 18, 2023