Parkway continues to face a critical shortage of bus drivers. And we expect more students will ride the bus next year, similar to pre-pandemic levels.
At the end of this school year, we were short 13 drivers. This equates to about 30 bus routes impacting roughly 1,000 students. We did our best this year and we're fortunate to have licensed drivers like bus mechanics and office staff who pitched in to help. But this left other critical services and jobs unattended.
Recently, we asked parents and staff to offer feedback on potential solutions. More than 2,000 participated in an online Thoughtexchange, and we convened a task force made up of parents and staff to problem-solve together. This is what we heard:
There was substantial support for increasing bus driver compensation.
There was general support for expanding neighborhood walk zones where it is safe and decreasing the number of bus stops.
Overwhelmingly, parents and staff did not support adding another bus tier or changing school start times, and parents did support increasing the number of students to three to a seat.
Based on all of this feedback, we are recommending the following changes to bus transportation for next year:
Expand neighborhood walk zones from the current practice of .5 miles to a 1-mile walk zone. Neighborhood walk zones are areas with sidewalks that do not require students to cross a major street. No bus service would be provided within neighborhood 1-mile walk zones. Start neighborhood-to-school walker support programs for elementary students.
Decrease the number of bus stops.
Parents will need to request bus transportation and are encouraged to drive students to school if possible. Look for an email soon to request transportation for 2022-23.
The board already approved a pay increase for bus drivers in May, and we will continue an aggressive summer recruitment communication plan.
The board will discuss this at its meeting on Wednesday night. You can watch the board meeting online here. After the meeting, we will be in touch with our plans moving forward.
Watch this video to learn more about the bus driver shortage
We followed Parkway Director of Transportation Will Rosa as he took students home from school and asked him questions about all the challenges we are facing with the bus driver shortage and the best reasons to be a bus driver. You might be able to guess - it's all about the kids!
We couldn't have done it without them.
With the ongoing driver shortage, all Parkway mechanics and Transportation Department office staff were driving buses on a regular basis this year. Thanks to them, nearly 1,000 students have been transported to and from school. We thank them for their service to the Parkway community!
(Top photo: pictured left to right: Bryan Broome, Steve Jones, Will Rosa, Jesse Knickerbocker, Wally Hayes, Connie Bannon, Judy Ellermann, Paula Adamsdempsey and Michelle Richter. Bottom photo: Travis Warren, Daniel Inglis)