Kansas City’s largest school bus provider facing driver shortage as quick fix is expiring

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Public Schools and several others around the metro are facing a bus driver shortage. Transportation provider, First Student, has warned a temporary solution to the problem is about to come to an end.

With school starting here earlier than other parts of the country, First Student has been able to fly in 32 drivers from Minnesota to help fill the shortage. They will return home by Labor Day.

First Student had two classrooms full of aspiring bus drivers, Thursday. But before they can get on the road, most of them need commercial driver's licenses. That means at least 3 weeks of training.

It's a tough situation for First Student who said it was already dealing with a smaller pool of potential school bus drivers this year.

That was before Kansas City Public Schools ended up cutting ties with Daye Transportation after failed inspections and disputes over drivers failing to pick up students. As a result, First Student had to pick up about 20 extra routes for students at Lincoln College Prep Academy.

"We have been working all summer long to make sure that we have enough drivers between now and Labor Day so whenever those drivers leave we have enough drivers to continue on," regional training manager Darlene Davis said.

Wednesday the company announced it's trying to hire 150 bus drivers across the Metro. Not just for Kansas City Public Schools, but the eight school districts it serves: Shawnee Mission, Olathe, Park Hill, Lawrence, DeSoto, Gardner-Edgerton and Grandview.

"There`s no hiding that, we do need drivers but we are able to pick up our kids. We aren`t going to leave anybody out there without a ride," Davis said.

KCPS says it's been working with its route management company to combine routes and make trips more efficiently. Spokesperson Natalie Allen said she remains optimistic there will be a plan in place when those Minnesota drivers leave that will have as little impact as possible on families.

Until then, First Student will keep recruiting, and trying to get the recruits they already have road ready.

Prospective drivers have to be 21, be able to pass background checks and drug screens and possess a valid driver's license.