Tangipahoa Parish schools experience critical shortage of bus drivers

Local News

"Sometimes I worry about how long they can keep doing this."

AMITE, La. (BRPROUD) — Schools are experiencing a nationwide bus driver shortage. This issue now hits home for the Tangipahoa Parish School System as they try to find ways to get children to and from school.

About 13,000 to 14,000 students depend on the bus every day to get to school in Tangipahoa Parish. The school board system said there’s a major need for school bus drivers. The numbers have gotten so low that it’s started to impact students, parents and other employees.

“We’ve been here before, but this year is probably the worst we’ve seen,” said Tangipahoa Schools Director of Transportation Byron Muse.

He said it’s been a struggle to cover all of their bus routes for the parish.

“We probably have a deficit of 50 drivers that we’re needing and we are trying our best to cover up those holes. When someone calls at the last minute, we run the risk of not having those holes covered,” he explained. “When someone calls at the last minute, we run the risk of not having those holes covered.”

When they aren’t able to cover them and their substitute pool is depleted, Tangipahoa Parish School System Superintendent Melissa Stilley said it causes major issues.

“We actually have to tell parents that we don’t have a bus driver to pick up their children, and in 34 years I have never heard that happen before,” she said.

Stilley believes the pandemic has increased this problem. She said as online shopping has increased, some drivers may decide to work for those companies because they offer more hours. She also said that after the pandemic broke out, some of the older bus drivers retired out of fear of getting COVID-19.

She said the increased workload is taxing for their drivers.

“Everyone is just trying to get the job done. Literally, we do not have substitutes. Sometimes I worry about how long they can keep doing this. Sometimes there are reasons you just have to take off,” she said.

She has looked for ways to keep drivers, such as increasing pay by seven percent.

“We are right now training a little over 30 individuals to take over for some and to at least serve as a substitute to help provide some relief to our drivers who are going above and beyond,” said Stilley.

Muse is hopeful that at least 50 percent of his training class will get on the road soon.

‘We are doing the trainings four to five times a year now to try to help get more drivers through the system, so we can ultimately get on school buses. We want to hire,” said Muse.

Starting pay for bus drivers has increased, now paying $19.84 an hour. Drivers will also be eligible for health and retirement benefits. Anyone interested in applying can send an email to bus@tangischools.org.

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