Columbia Public Schools uses charter buses for extracurricular activities due to shortage of bus drivers


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COLUMBIA, MO (KMIZ)

A shortage of bus drivers is affecting after-school activities in Colombia.

Three weeks into the school year, Columbia Public Schools says it can cover its 120 daily bus routes, but the district has had to provide additional assistance to get children to after-school activities.

Student Transportation of America is currently short of bus drivers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the district pays more for charter buses for excursions and sports.

Columbia Board of Education records show the district currently has contracts with four charter bus companies. The district spent over $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 (ECAs), donations and fundraisers.

CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the district is addressing the issue and hiring employees and relatives to serve as bus drivers and will lease buses from STA. So far, the district said it has nine employees who have been licensed and are able to cover charters.

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

Baumstark said the district currently provides transportation for kindergarten through 8th graders who live one mile from the school and 9th through 12th graders who live two miles from the school. She says the district tries to limit bus journeys to around an hour and to make this possible they introduced the membership procedure last year.

District officials say the enrollment process will allow them to focus on routing students who qualify for bus service and who will actually ride the bus versus including all who are eligible in the routes and trying to recruit staff at this level.

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