SAN ANTONIO — North East Independent School District is working to address an ongoing bus driver shortage as the first day of classes quickly approach.
“This is one typical area where we do usually have a shortage in our bus drivers, but we’ve not seen it to this extent before,” said Aubrey Chancellor, NEISD’s executive director of communications.
The district sent out a letter to families on July 29 addressing the issue and what’s being done to mitigate the shortfall in bus drivers.
North East ISD is currently experiencing a shortage of 47 drivers, which Chancellor stressed will lead to “inevitable delays” in buses arriving to pick up students.
While no routes will be cut, some students can expect delays from 30-40 minutes each day.
Consolidated bus routes could lead to longer bus times as well, according to the district letter.
Late bus routes will be communicated to parents though the NEISD Blackboard messaging system.
Parents are urged to plan for alternative transportation.
“Sending out the letter was really to be proactive and let them know weeks ahead of time that we are struggling, just like so many others, and that this could be a possibility. So if there is any way that they could come up with a plan B, they have time to do that,” Chancellor said.
The school district of more than 60,000 students has recruited all qualified hands on deck in an effort to take the wheel.
“We had already been at the point where everyone in our office, our dispatchers, our routers, our directors, our leaders, they were getting behind the wheel of a bus,” Chancellor said. “We’re utilizing coaches who have their CDLs, so we are really doing everything can in using all available resources to us,” Chancellor said.
Tom Cummins, executive director of the North East AFT (American Federation of Teachers), stressed the union supports a greater pay raise for bus drivers employed by NEISD. Cummins noted in an emailed statement.
“NEISD should have recognized that the shortage of bus drivers would continue. With inflation at 9.2%, and with the difficulties of the job, the starting pay of a driver should be around $20 to $22 an hour. Bus drivers are the first to greet our students and they are the ones to say goodbye to them in the afternoon. The district cannot let the shortage go unaddressed; the school board must raise the pay substantially as soon as possible.”
The NEISD Board of Trustees recently approved a wage increase for bus drivers who can now earn up to $18.50 an hour.
“We will continue to recruit, we will continue to look at the salaries and making sure that the salary is fair and at market value,” Chancellor said.
NEISD has also rolled out a $1,000 referral bonus program for employees who recommend successful bus driver candidates.