School Transportation Problem “Dire”

A PLT student steps off a district bus on the first day of classes.
There are various types of vehicles that need to be driven with various levels of certification required.
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Simply being unable to provide transportation for students on a daily basis. It’s a current issue faced by many local school districts as they deal with a lack of school bus drivers. Both Erie and the PLT School Districts have been affected by the shortage of drivers and are resorting to solutions such as Athletic Directors driving students to practices and full-time staff members driving daily bus routes in addition to their regular duties.

With the lack of bus drivers continuing to be a problem for all area districts, PLT#3 Superintendent Heidi Lensing called the situation “dire”. Lensing says little has been done by state agencies to alleviate the problem. Lensing understands that there needs to be training for drivers but wishes it could be less restrictive to help entice people to become involved. “The only change I know of is that there have been requirements added, which became effective on February 7th of this year.”

Lensing and interim Transportation Director and bus driver Dawn Fisk have exhausted dozens of options to solve the issue, including reaching out to area transportation companies for help. “The logistics we are working out to try an get the students where they need to be is mindboggling.” When asked if the district was playing with a house of cards, she replied, “100%”.

The bottom line for PLT#3 according to Lensing, “We currently do not have enough personnel to cover all of the transportation routes. People say this is the district’s responsibility. Agreed, but we have no one at this time to fill the need.” If parents do transport their students because the district can not, they will be paid for mileage.”

Erie is also using staff members to bridge the gap of a driver shortage. Athletic Director Brian Howell has been transporting students to various locations over the past few years, as he does have a school bus endorsed license. Counselor and basketball coach Ryan Winckler has also stepped in when needed.

The problem is not just local. ECUSD #1 Superintendent, Chuck Milem said that at a recent meeting of regional superintendents, lack of bus drivers was at the top of the agenda. He added that their was a district discussed, which is relying on parents to form car pools to help get students to school.

Currently the Erie and PLT districts are cooperating beyond just athletics and school activities’ transportation needs. One example of this crossover is getting students to specialized services located outside of the districts.

File Photo

As the situation now stands Lensing said if a driver calls off, her district will be calling parents to tell them their student will not be picked up that day.

She is very appreciative of her staff that has stepped up to help with the crisis especially Dawn Fisk, and other district staff members who are doing whatever they can to get students to school. “They have been and continue to be amazing!” She also gave kudos to Miles Trucking for their outstanding service as they have taken over the maintenance of the district’s fleet. “They have worked diligently to ensure our vehicles are safe and road-ready. I cannot express how grateful I am to them for their work.”

Both superintendents said they would welcome anyone who is interested in driving in any capacity. There are options when it comes to helping out meaning drivers can opt to drive a van or small activity bus instead of a large school bus with a morning and afternoon route. 

The requirements for school van driver and school bus driver are as follows:

Van Driver:

  • Application at District Office
  • Fingerprinting/Background Check
  • 8 hour initial training class
  • Physical and Drug Test
  • Written driving test through DMV
  • Behind the wheel test through DMV

Bus Driver:

  • Application at District Office
  • Fingerprinting/Background Check
  • 8 hour initial training class
  • MAP 21 online training with behind the wheel practice/time
  • Written driving test through DMV
  • Physical and Drug Test 
  • Behind the wheel test through DMV

Contact Information

Erie

Transportation Director – Dave DeShane, 309-659-2239 or ddeshane@ecusd.info

PLT

Interim Transportation Director – Dawn Fisk, 815-718-2311 or dfisk@plt3.org 

One Response

  1. I would also note that at least for a full CDL bus permit, you must be at least 25 years old.

    It is a rewarding job, but difficult. I am proud to work with such wonderful people!

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