RAYMORE, Mo. -- Many school districts around the country struggle to hire and keep good bus drivers. That's forced some schools to cut and consolidate bus routes to make do.
But in the Raymore-Peculiar School District, busing service is being expanded instead.
Lauren Thomas is enjoying the last few days of maternity leave with her baby girl. She also has four older kids and is now thankful they have a much easier way to get to school.
"It's awesome they can ride the bus," Thomas said.
Lauren's house sits 0.9 mile from Eagle Glen Elementary, where three of her four school age kids attend.
Because Missouri only reimburses schools for busing kids outside one mile of school, students at or beyond that threshold are forced to walk, bike or find another ride, which Lauren said just wasn't an option for her family.
"I think the biggest concern for a lot of us was the sex offenders actually that live in this neighborhood. You can't really have your kids walking, and it's not a convenient way. There's too many turns," Thomas said.
Potentially unsafe walking conditions and weather concerns are two reasons Ray-Pec's school board agreed to expand busing to every student district wide.
"I have an elementary child myself, and I wouldn't want him walking a mile to school. So as we talked over with our board about what it would cost and benefit it brings to our community -- the convenience and the safety -- it really just came out this was the right thing to do," said Dr. Bryan Pettengill, assistant superintendent of administrative services.
About 600 kids live within a mile of their school, and 150 of them signed up to get busing this year at a cost of about $100,000 for the district.
But because of how Ray-Pec's routes are set up, the district said it could absorb nearly all the extra load with existing drivers.
"There has been a little bit of crowding as we adjust, and we're quickly addressing those and we're actually adding more buses this week to address the crowding issues," Pettengill said.
Thomas said the new availability of busing is also helping her family's budget. With their schedules, they will no longer need after-school care, saving them hundreds of dollars every month.