New Prague’s bus driver shortage

Micah Anderson, Editor

The New Prague school district has been suffering this year due to a shortage of bus drivers. Riding the bus is something that many students take for granted. Some students drive themselves to school or get rides from parents, but the majority of K-12 students depend on the bus to get to school. Now that New Prague is lacking in bus drivers, it is facing a serious problem.

When asked why there is a bus driver shortage, Superintendent Dittberner said, “We are a microcosm of what goes on nationwide, statewide. It’s a problem all over. This pandemic, combined with a number of people retiring, it’s created shortages in labor in all areas. We’ve had clerical administrators subbing in the food service, so we’re short there. We’re short with teacher substitutes, paraprofessionals: every area that we have. If there’s one area that is the toughest, it’s transportation because you’ve gotta get kids to school.”

Simply put, the district has three options to solve this issue. The first option is to recruit more drivers. The district has incentives such as $1,000-$1,500 bonuses for new drivers. The current bus drivers were also given a raise for how well they have been doing and to demonstrate the district’s gratitude. If enough new drivers aren’t hired, the second option is to ask families to drive their children to school rather than take the bus, if possible. If enough people don’t volunteer to drive their children, then the third option is to cancel routes on a rotating basis, meaning the student would have to occasionally find their own transportation to school. If they can’t get there on their own, they will have an excused absence. Superintendent Dittberner hopes the district does not get to that point.

Another possible solution is that all students living within a one or two-mile radius of the school must find their own transportation, allowing the other students to ride the bus. This is common in other districts, but it is not the route New Prague wants to take.

One thing that separates New Prague bussing from bussing in other districts is that New Prague owns its busses. Most other districts contract their busses out, but because New Prague owns its busses, it gets more flexibility and control. Most of the drivers are district residents, and the district takes a lot of pride in them.

Although the situation is not ideal, it is not dire. Superintendent Dittberner says, “I think we’re in a better situation than a lot of school districts. It is what it is, but we’ll get through it. We’ve gotta stay positive.”