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Bus driver shortage leaves some parents scrambling to get kids to school

Posted at 5:15 PM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 17:15:41-04

GROSSE ILE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — It is time to go back to school, but for some families, the big question is: how will kids get there?

Grosse Ile Township Schools sent home a letter last week notifying parents the district had to cancel general education busing for now. School starts next week.

“We understand the burden this has caused and we are doing everything we can to get the service back,” said Valerie Orr, Grosse Ile Township Schools Superintendent.

Orr started in her role as superintendent in July and says for a time they had just enough staff to pull off bus transportation for all students.

“Last year our school district did have to cancel busing due to COVID. So we lost a lot of our own drivers at that time. Over the summer we spent a lot of time trying to recruit some of our drivers back and some new drivers. We were able to make progress on that but ended getting some last-minute resignations due to some personal issues,” said Orr.

She says with a small operation on an island, something perhaps felt more intensely right now with only one toll bridge open because the free bridge is shut down for repairs, the district had no options.

“You can’t just hurry up and throw a driver on a bus. There is extensive training they have to go through,” said Orr.

“I am grateful I am a stay-at-home mom, so it is easier on me, but it is still a lot. Especially with having a 2-year-old too,” said Alayna Gruwe, mom to four students.

“It is hard for parents that don’t have a grandparent that can help out,” said Melissa Adkins, grandmother to two students.

“It is challenging. I am going to try to work days that they are not in school. I am a nurse, so you have to be at work at 7,” said Lindsay Hinkle, mom to two students.

The National School Transportation Association says most schools across the country are reporting a severe bus driver shortage. The reasons given include concerns about COVID-19, hours, pay in a more competitive labor market, and a desire for more benefits.

There are hundreds of jobs posted for bus drivers in metro Detroit. Ann Arbor Public Schools tells 7 Action News it still has six positions open and a need for substitute drivers to help it cover just over 100 bus routes. Bloomfield Hills Schools tells 7 Action News it still has 18 positions available.

Grosse Ile Township Schools says it is looking into outsourcing busing, hoping to have transportation available for general education students by the end of October.