A shortage of bus drivers has forced the Lisbon School Department to cancel two bus routes and consolidate bus runs for the second time this academic year.

At least 900 students rely on these buses every day to get to district schools.

Transportation Director Allen Ouellette said the district has 10 drivers but needs at least three more to operate smoothly.

“I think there is a shortage in employees across the United States and not just bus drivers,” said Ouellete. “Due to this consolidation, in the afternoons the runs are a little bit longer, but I don’t have any student for more than half an hour on the bus.”

Superintendent Richard Green said while the students are not experiencing any delays in pick up and drop due to the shortage, they might have scheduling issues in the coming days if they receive any additional resignations or COVID-19 cases.

Green said there have been three drivers who either retired or resigned so far this school year.

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Though the school department has been actively advertising bus drivers’ vacancies, Ouellette said they had not received a single application so far.

The average salary of a bus driver is about $17.06-$21.11 per hour, said Green.

“It is a tough job, and not a lot of people apply for school bus driver jobs,” said Ouellete. “Every person I have is driving multiple routes, and that is a lot of time because a lot of them are private drivers. I have been advertising regularly about the job vacancies, but I am not getting any applications.”

The school department is making do with what they have, and there are other licensed staff covering routes as needed.

Mikayla Wolfe, a Lisbon High School student who occasionally takes the school bus, said it is hard to find a seat on the bus, let alone finding a seat next to someone she is least friends with.

“The consolidation of bus routes has not affected me personally other than it being overcrowded on the bus,” said Wolfe. “Sometimes three people fit in one of those seats which are not the biggest and certainly not big enough for three high schoolers.”

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According to Ouellette, there are at least 50 children on the bus per trip, which is well within the school guidelines.

For Jason Koundry, whose three children ages 11, 7 and 5 take the school bus daily, the changing bus schedules are difficult.

“Considering we are getting into the coldest days of winter. We can be waiting another 15-20 minutes before pick up, and when I get them off the bus, it is usually 15 minutes after the usual time,” said Koundry. “On one occasion, the bus came about five minutes before the regular pick-up time, and my daughter missed the bus, and I had to drive her to school.”

Koundry added that his seven-year-old is autistic, and the changing bus schedules are a lot for him.

The school department had partnered with a private firm two years ago to provide the community access to real-time bus location information. However, Koundry said he found out about the tracking app only last week.

“I wish I knew about it sooner,” said Koundry. “Poor communication regarding that.”

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According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Pupil Transportation, half of the student-transportation coordinators described their school bus driver shortages as either “severe” or “desperate.”

At least 79% of the respondents from the northeast said they had altered their bus services since the start of the pandemic.

Brunswick School Department is facing a shortage of substitute drivers, who are often used to transport students to sporting events, according to the Portland Press Herald.

On Jan. 4, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in coordination with the Department of Education announced that it would give the states the option of waiving the commercial driver’s license test that requires school bus driver applicants to identify under-the-hood engine components to help states and municipalities that are experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers recruit new hires, according to the U.S Department of Transportation.


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