FORT BEND COUNTY – Back to school time is among us, and with many schools opting for in-person classes, the bustle is back.
However, many districts all over the country are now dealing with a staffing shortage - a lack of bus drivers and bus monitors due to the pandemic crisis that has been here longer than anyone would prefer.
Dozens of parents reached out to Fort Bend ISD’s Executive Director of Transporation, Demetrius Martin, with concerns over the issue of late or no-show buses during the first two weeks of the school year.
Martin spoke with KPRC 2, shedding light on the situation the district is dealing with and how they are planning on resolving the issue.
“Right now, we’re facing challenges that basically school districts across the country are facing with bus drivers, which are commercial vehicle operators,” Martin said to KPRC 2. “Right now our department is down roughly 100 operators, so we’re severely lacking personnel. It’s a challenge, to some degree, that we saw coming, but as best we could, we hired at job fairs and advertised with positions, and because of challenges with COVID and the pandemic, we were not able to staff up as we could in a normal year.”
Parents like Maris Metzler said her Fort Bend ISD student with special needs waited outside his home in the heat and sometimes rain for much longer than expected, which was concerning to her. Her other child who waits at a stop down the block said the bus never came at all.
“We’re into week two of school now and still with a messed up bus schedule,” Metzler said.
Miki Edwards said her Fort Bend ISD student has dealt with the same issues.
“There were about 11 kids waiting (for the bus) all the way down at the end of this street. I wasn’t here, I was already on my way to work,” Edwards said.
“We fight to call the bus barn every day and they don’t answer the phones,” Michelle Stone, another FBSID guardian, said.
Luckily, another neighbor brought all the children to school.
Martin is assuring Fort Bend ISD parents that the district is in the process of adjusting bus routes, adding pick-up trips, and addressing parents’ concerns as the district finds out about the issues. Martin said it is the department’s priority to get the students picked up and brought to school on time.
However, Martin said the district has a significant need for bus drivers and bus monitors who he said are an integral part of students’ success.
The district is reiterating its call for people to apply and get trained for the bus driver and monitor positions. Fort Bend ISD is offering paid training for both. Those who apply are able to start as soon as a week or few weeks depending on their level of familiarity with the field.
“Depending on the person and their skill level and their familiarity with large vehicles, it can range from being in training from one week to one month,” Martin said.
The bus monitor position requires no driving experience at all. The position just requires the monitor to help specific students on the bus.
Parents who spoke with KPRC 2 said they are willing to work with the district to help in any way they can, but would also prefer more communication and accurate bus schedules.
“I’m hoping they do get more drivers. That would be a good solution,” Martin said.
For more information on the open positions, Fort Bend ISD offered the following links below. They are encouraging people to apply as soon as possible:
School Bus Drivers
School Bus Monitors