OLATHE, Kan. — The shortage of bus drivers persists for some Kansas City-area school districts, including in Olathe, even after the district cut more than two dozen bus routes and implemented “rolling transportation blackouts.”
The blackouts began in January. It means not all bus routes run every day of the week. In the spring, the district considered changing school start and end times to allow for some route consolidations. The board ultimately decided to revisit that at a later time.
Instead, it decided to cut 35 routes and stopped providing bus service to middle and high schoolers who live less than 2 and a half miles from their school.
Monday was the first full day back for students in the school district.
“A little bit of music always calms us down, and so, a little bit of high energy to ease some of those nerves,” Pioneer Trail Middle School Principal Scott Appell told FOX4 Monday.
DS Bus Lines does the bussing for the students in the district.
“This morning went very well. We have every route covered, so that’s always a good plus,” DS Bus Lines Gen Ed Dispatcher John Oster said in an interview with FOX4 Monday. “We cover all the routes, so we’re always obviously looking for more drivers, but we have the routes covered.”
Oster said they have nearly 170 people that drive for Olathe Public Schools only, and they’re looking to hire 15 or 20 more specifically for this district.
“It really helps our children get a better start to their day, to get involved in their life, to talk to them, and get them safe,” Oster continued.
“It’s important safety wise to have the same bus driver on the route every single day because they get to know the kids. They get to know the route. They can drive it. They’re the safest driver on the road.”
DS Bus Lines is paying sign-on bonuses of $2,000 for people who have their CDLs and their school bus endorsements. School district employees can get $500 if they refer someone who ends up signing on.
The school district’s website shows it also has more than 200 paraprofessional vacancies right now. That averages out to about four in each of the district’s 51 school buildings.
“We continue to actively recruit and hire for our remaining vacant positions and recently hosted a job fair,” Olathe Public Schools Assistant Director of Communications Eric Schulte said in a statement sent to FOX4 Monday. “Anyone interested in learning more or applying should visit the district’s employment website.”
All of Johnson County’s schools will be back in class by Friday, including Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley Schools. All told, the county will see more than 100,000 students and teachers back in school buildings.