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Columbia Public Schools using charter buses for after-school activities amid bus driver shortage

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

A bus driver shortage is affecting after-school activities in Columbia.

Three weeks into the school year, Columbia Public Schools says it is able to cover its 120 daily bus routes, but the district has had to bring on extra help to get kids to after-school activities.

Student Transportation of America is lacking bus drivers right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the district is paying more for charter buses for field trips and sports.

Columbia Board of Education records show the district currently has contracts with four charter bus companies. The district has spent more than $370,000 on charter bus transportation this calendar year. According to Monday night's meeting agenda, the money to fund the charter buses comes from extracurricular activity accounts (ECA), donations and fundraisers.

CPS spokesperson Michelle Baumstark says the district is addressing the problem and is hiring employees and parents to serve as bus drivers and will lease buses from STA. So far, the district said it has nine employees that have received their licenses and are able to cover charters.

The district is also looking into activity schedules to see if there is flexibility in departure times to allow STA to drive students to and from school and to athletic events and field trips.

Baumstark said the district currently provides transportation for students in grades K-8 who live one mile from school and for students in grades 9-12 who live two miles from school. She says the district tries to keep bus rides to about an hour and to make this possible they brought in the opt-in procedure last year.

District officials say the opt-in procedure will allow them to focus on routing students that qualify for bus service and will actually be riding the bus compared to including everyone that is eligible in routes and trying to staff at that level.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

Erika McGuire

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