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School district to change bus routes as driver shortage persists

By Kristen Hackbarth

The bus driver shortage at Washoe County School District (WCSD) hit a tipping point this week as the district moved to adjust school bus pick-up and drop-off points to reduce the number of routes drivers must cover each day. 

Starting Jan. 3, most students in middle or high school will meet their bus at a nearby elementary school or other public place rather than their previously assigned bus stop. They’ll be dropped back at the same location at the end of the school day.

Students who have special needs and an IEP (individualized education program), or participate in the School Within a School program, will not be affected by the changes. Students in Incline Village, Gerlach or other remote areas of the district will also not have changes to their bus stops.

WCSD officials said the changes were necessary based on a lack of bus drivers. The new bus stop locations will cut 20 routes from the district’s transportation system.

“Despite aggressive recruitment and hiring efforts, our district has been unable to hire enough drivers to cover these routes,” WCSD officials said on their website.

The district has been working to hire new drivers for months and has hosted a number of job fairs, and attended community events in the hopes of attracting workers to fill open positions across several departments.

Hiring for the positions can be difficult. Drivers work just 6.5 hours per day on a split shift to cover morning and afternoon runs. Current job postings offer up to $2,000 in incentives for drivers who stay on the job for at least 12 months and a starting pay of $14.53 to $16.66 per hour. The positions include health benefits, paid time off and retirement.

The bus driver shortage was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the district has struggled to hire enough drivers for several years. In early 2019, WCSD said it was short more than 50 drivers.

Local transit agencies, including the Regional Transportation Commission and Tahoe Transportation District, have also struggled to hire enough drivers.
Families can search for updated bus route information based on their student’s grade and address on the district’s website. WCSD’s transportation department will send additional updates to families as details are finalized.

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