Fayette County Public Schools, located in Lexington, Kentucky, is experiencing a delay in return to in-person learning due to a school bus driver shortage, reported the Lexington Herald Leader.
Myron Thompson, the district’s chief operating officer, said that different measures are being considered to address the shortage, such as increasing driver pay, restructuring staff positions, retaining a staffing company, and hiring a specialist to help recruit more drivers.
Thompson added that Fayette County Public Schools has been experiencing a deficit of bus drivers for years, but the pandemic has further complicated matters. Several transportation employees were hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, and applications are reportedly down 75 percent amid concerns of virus exposure as well as the scheduling and licensure requirements needed for the position.
The district needs 258 drivers to cover all their routes. As of Feb. 22, 229 of those needed positions had been filled. Thompson said that about 20 drivers call out each day and there is a limited number of substitutes and back-up drivers, such as mechanics, who can drive those routes. Other drivers and transportation employees have gone on leave, which has prompted district officials to encourage other employees to become licensed drivers.
Fayette County kindergarten through fifth-grade students have returned to in-person learning and district officials said that all other grades are expected to return by March 15.