PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC) — The Pittsford Central School District released a plan for dealing with potential bus driver shortages in the winter months.
In a message sent to parents Wednesday evening, the district said it expected bus driver availability to grow limited as flu season and winter weather approaches. It said that could lead to bus delays to and from school, as well as cancellations for extracurricular and sports busing.
The district said nearly all transportation employees, including the director of transportation, will drive buses in an attempt to relieve shortages. Some routes will be consolidated in the meantime.
The district says it will communicate with parents if and when bus driver shortages impact students.
Earlier this month, the Rochester City School District enacted financial incentives to address a bus driver shortage. The shortage in that district had a significant impact on students returning for the 2021-2022 year.
Read the message from the Pittsford Central School District
Pittsford Schools is not immune to the school bus driver shortage affecting the nation. Due to this shortage of bus drivers running our fleet, PCSD has employed multiple stopgaps, while maintaining the highest level of safety.
We anticipate that bus driver availability may become even more limited during the winter months and flu season, compounding an already difficult situation. Families may feel the impact of this in delayed bus runs to and from school, as well as the cancellation of extra-curricular and athletic bus runs.
What Parents/Guardians Can Do
In preparation for this likely scenario, we are alerting parents now about what to expect if their child(ren)’s bus is going to be delayed or canceled. In the event that the District is unable to cover all bus routes as scheduled:
- Parents/guardians will receive an email from the District detailing the bus number(s) affected and estimated time of delay as soon as we are aware of a driver absence. Please check your email each morning and afternoon before your child(ren)’s normal bus run to learn about any delays or cancellations. (Text messaging for this purpose should be available in the near future.)
- Parents/guardians who wish to pick up their child(ren) at the school should inform the school’s main office and arrange a time for pick-up
- If you need to reach the Transportation Department, please know that all certified drivers – which includes our office staff and mechanics – are being deployed as drivers during this period. This may cause a delay in responding to your call. We recommend using email (Carla_Grove@pittsford.monroe.edu) or calling in the middle of the day between morning and afternoon bus runs, if possible. Someone will respond as soon as possible
- After-school activities and athletics bus runs may be canceled due to this labor shortage. We are making every effort to avoid these situations, but these scenarios are possible in the current environment. Please check your email for notifications about cancellations or delays
- If you are able to drive your child and/or willing to carpool with a neighbor, that may help alleviate some of the burden on the current system
- Similar to other Districts, we are experiencing virtually no applicants in the areas of Bus Driver, Food Services and Operations & Maintenance (custodial/cleaner). If you or someone you know is interested in a career with PCSD please ask them to visit https://www.pittsfordschools.org/Page/25662 or attend the PCSD Job Fair on Thursday, November 18, between Noon and 8pm at Barker Road Middle School (75 Barker Road, use door 3)
Creative Solutions to Bus Driver Shortage
The District typically starts the school year with 105 bus drivers to transport more than 6,000 students daily to nine school buildings and approximately 54 out-of-District locations (private/parochial schools, BOCES programs, daycare centers, etc.). This year we planned the school year with only 92 bus drivers and are currently down to 78 drivers. The District has revised, and continues to assess, its transportation plan by employing various tactics and strategies, including:
- All licensed members of the Transportation Department are driving buses, including the Director of Transportation, with the exception of one mechanic and a dispatcher
- Consolidating bus stops to reduce time per route
- Some buses between secondary/elementary routes are used to double back to assist with routes that were not covered
- Virtually all field trip transportation has been curtailed unless the trip leaves following arrival and returns prior to dismissal
- Section V Athletics has pushed back the start time for events to better allow teams to depart their schools after PM bus runs return
- The Transportation Department has built several contingency plans for various scenarios and levels of absence, route non-coverage
- School building protocols were developed to provide supervision during times of bus route delays
- Like other districts, we are now forced to adhere closely to NYS Transportation Law which outlines greater walking distances for students. For example, NYS Law requires a grade K-2 walk distance of 2.0 miles; District Board of Education Policy is 0.3 miles
- Some students attending Private Schools may need to transfer to another bus in route or transfer to an assisting neighboring school district’s bus
- Late transportation requests to daycare centers and private/parochial schools may not be accommodated
- PCSD was the only District in the area to devote a portion of the Federal Stimulus Funds to increasing the bus driver starting pay to a competitive level and enhancing current driver pay to entice drivers to remain. The plan has resulted in postponing several retirements, but has had nominal impact on attracting new drivers
- Working with BOCES and District Technology teams to enhance “real-time” parent communication as changes develop
- Continuing to adhere to COVID guidelines of distancing, assigned seats (contact tracing), airflow, etc.
- Trying to partner with various contractor sources, however, the driver shortage extends to them as well, and there is little interest or ability to assist us
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.