the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, in May this year a “shortage of bus drivers” for afternoon routes forced Ridgewood school district to delay full-day in-house classes until fall.
“There was no reason to assume that any of the vendors would not be able to accommodate a change in the schedule,” Superintendent Thomas Gorman told parents in an email. “Consequently, Ridgewood Public Schools will follow the current schedules through the end of the school year.”
Superintendent Gorman said the district had hoped to implement Phase III for the last 14 days of instruction in June. At present, students in the K-12 district are on a hybrid system with classes split in half, rotating half in school one day while the other half attends class remotely until 12:45 p.m. Students go home before lunch.
During a typical year, 55% of all K-12 students — some 25m kids — use school buses to get to class. In total, the nation’s 13.8k school districts spend a collective $22B/year on transportation.
Across the country, school districts are struggling to fill transportation jobs. The shortage helps explain systemic problems in the labor market.
In a recent national survey, ~81% of districts reported not being able to find enough school bus drivers to fill their needs.
More than half of surveyed districts categorize this shortage as “severe” or “desperate.”
School bus driver shortages aren’t a new phenomenon. At the beginning of most school years, districts and private bus companies often find themselves short-staffed by a few positions.
This year, though, many districts say they have 30%-50% fewer drivers than needed to adequately fill the demand.
The current shortage began to mount last year, when 95% of all K-12 schools in the US transitioned to remote learning.
Though school districts were given $13.5B in federal aid to weather the storm, many didn’t use any of the money to pay transportation contractors.
Bus companies — which rely on the 180-day school year for business — were forced to furlough or lay off their drivers en masse. These drivers went on to find other transportation jobs, and it’s been extraordinarily difficult to recruit them back.
This year, as schools have reopened, many of the remaining drivers have also quit voluntarily over health concerns.