Across school districts in San Antonio, hundreds of kids are waiting up to an hour to catch a ride home thanks to a shortage of bus drivers that’s forcing buses to make double runs.
That’s when drivers make two stops in the same neighborhood, dropping off one set of kids before turning around to pick up the others.
Double runs are a big problem, school officials say. It’s the result of overcrowded schools with too many kids opting to take the bus, and not enough drivers to meet the demand.
"The whole notion of a double run really is going back to the fact that we are short of drivers. In Northside, we have been and we continue to be short of about 60 drivers,” said Barry Perez, spokesman for the Northside Independent School District. “It's not a Northside issue. The shortage of bus drivers truly is a national problem."
It may be the end of the year, but school officials say the shortage is not going away anytime soon. And, they said the search for drivers will continue throughout the summer months.
“With many programs taking place after the end of the official school year, the need for qualified bus drivers exists even through the summer months,” Perez said. “We encourage individuals who have an interest in becoming a school bus driver to visit our website or call our Transportation Hiring Specialist.”
Still, students express frustrations, saying school officials can do better. They say who gets to ride the bus first or second- depends on who you ask – and what school you attend.
At Hoffmann Elementary School Principal Carrie Squyres says kids are escorted to the bus by a teacher and are under constant supervision.
"What I would just like parents to know is that your kids are safe and well taken care of,” she said. “And, we understand that this is not the most convenient response to what we are dealing with, but in a fast growth area for us this is just another day at Hoffmann."
But, at the high school level, it’s a different story. A Taft High School junior, who asked to remain anonymous, said every day after school it’s a race to get on the bus.
"If you're able to shove your way in, you're the one who gets to go on the bus,” she said. “It's almost like a fight to get in.”
And she said, when students are bored – they look for trouble.
"We've got 45 minutes to spare. I'm bored. What can we do to have some fun? And, a lot of drama happens in those 45 minutes because the administrators are faraway."
School officials said their priority is keeping kids safe. Making double runs along some routes is the only option until they can hire more drivers.
"We understand it may be an inconvenience,” Perez said. “But it's an unfortunate inconvenience that is a result of us not willing to take the chance to overcrowd or overload a bus."
When asked for a reason for the shortage, Perez said: "I wish I had the answer to that. I think if we had the answer to that we certainly would be able to fill these positions.”
For information on the NISD Transportation Department or on becoming a NISD bus driver, please visit this website: nisd.net/transportation. Candidates interested in applying may contact the Transportation Staffing Specialist at (210) 397-0878.