Update on the bus dilemma

Durham School Services continues to be short bus drivers, resulting in students waiting extended periods of time to get home.

Alyssa Gagnon, Writer

Throughout the 2021-22 school year, many bus riders at Blue Valley Northwest have not had the pleasure of a consistent bus schedule.

“The bus has been late at least 10 or 11 times [this year]. It’s usually for an entire week at a time because they don’t have a driver,” freshman Anahi Hermreck said.

Hermrick is a bus rider on bus 16, and relies on the bus to get home due to her parents working during school dismissal time. If the bus is arriving late, however, she is forced to walk home, or else she will miss out on her after-school extracurricular activities.  

“I can’t wait until the bus comes to pick us up at four o’clock because I’m the last stop. I have stuff after school to get to and if I wait, I won’t make it on time,” Hermreck said. “I [have to] walk home if the bus is late, but sometimes it’s really cold so it’s a struggle.”

According to the Blue Valley Director of Business Operations, Jason Gillam, the bus company, Durham School Services, has addressed the problem and is doing everything they can to fix it. He said they are currently trying to hire new bus drivers to eliminate the problem.

“Durham School Services, who provide bussing for us, only [has] about 113 drivers and we need 126,” Gilliam said.  “Durham has brought in national recruiters [that have] been here for weeks helping strategize and recruit [more bus drivers],” Gillam said. 

According to Gillam, they have been finding that they are more successful in finding new bus driver candidates when they communicate person to person rather than mass communications. 

“[Durham has] had some success in setting up at some hiring fairs, but they’ve also been out in neighborhoods, where they have some bus drivers that already live there, and going door to door handing out flyers and trying to talk to others that live in those neighborhoods,” Gillam said.

A shortage in drivers has caused many busses to be late this school year. (Laura Benteman)

Although Durham has been working hard to hire more bus drivers and devise new plans, Gillam still wishes more people would apply for the part-time bus driver job.

“I wish there were more folks that took an early retirement or have grandkids in the school district and just want something to do to get out of the house for a part-time job,” Gillam said. “Those are awesome candidates to come drive the bus for us, we’re just not seeing as many of them as we have seen in the past which is making us have to find drivers from other places.”

Despite Durham’s efforts to hire more bus drivers, the shortage of bus drivers still exists, one way Durham is trying to help students is through the Durham Bus App. The app alerts students if their bus is going to be late ahead of time.

“I have the Durham Bus App. I usually receive texts around noon letting us know the bus is delayed. It’s good so I’m not calling my mom as school is getting out trying to make plans on how I’m getting home, I can do it in advance,” Hermreck said.

Gillam said that as the school year continues, he and everyone working for Durham will continue working hard until this dilemma is resolved.

“The folks that we have here from Durham… are working immensely hard,” Gillam said. “If we can’t deliver on the system that we have in place, we probably need to change it to provide a better quality experience for everyone.”