To the Families of Bus Routes 1 and 6,
Although school districts are not required to provide transportation, I assure you that Lakeport Unified WANTS to provide transportation. We WANT your students in school every day and put a lot of time, effort, and finances into providing transportation. So the unfortunate cancellation of the two routes was done after other options ran out.
The problem: Simply put, we don’t have enough drivers. Our transportation director has gone to great lengths to keep all of the buses running. He has:
- borrowed drivers from other school districts, but that could only last until their schools started.
- offered jobs to sub drivers.
- contacted and recruited previous and retired bus drivers.
- had his transportation specialist driving a bus.
- had his mechanic driving a bus
- driven a bus himself.
- cancelled field trips until further notice.
- trained potential drivers only to have some not complete all of the requirements, or take jobs outside transportation.
Drivers are like the rest of us, they have family emergencies, become ill, etc. Some of these issues are temporary and some are permanent, and we have been working around all of them so far. There is no one left to drive.
Recruiting: The requirements for drivers are pretty substantial. They have to train for many hours, drive for many hours, get health clearances, get fingerprinted, and get licensed by DMV. Some applicants don’t meet all of these requirements for various reasons. Although there are drivers currently in training, when a couple quit or have health issues, it comes down to not enough drivers. We can’t just pull other staff and have them drive.
Notification: We knew we were tight on drivers, and previous to this had a couple days to problem solve each issue as they came up. Every time we thought we may be short the following week, somehow the Director pulled together a solution. We thought we were going to squeak by until the last few drivers were finished with their training, but no such luck. The day I received notice that a driver could not drive, and we were for the first time out of options, you received notice. The same day, this information was posted on Facebook, the drivers gave the students fliers, and a message was sent via the district messaging system.
Common Problem: We are not the only district struggling with this issue. On September 7th, the Ukiah Daily Journal posted a news article containing the following statement:
The Ukiah Unified School District needs more bus drivers. Until they can hire and train more bus drivers, the school district can only currently provide 16 of its 21 regular bus routes.
Solutions: We currently have some drivers finishing their requirements. Our administrative team met today to brainstorm possible solutions and suggestions that we will be discussing with our Director of MOT. We need you to work with us by networking to recruit new drivers.
Social Media: I had a parent contact me directly and appreciate her asking for clarification on issues that were misrepresented on social media. We have not failed to seek alternatives with the union, they are an extremely hard-working group and have assisted us in every way possible to solve this problem. Our attention needs to be focused on hiring new drivers, not addressing misperceptions on social media.
Frustration is understandable as this situation has been inconvenient. We will not stop trying to bring these routes back and hope for a solution within a couple months. Thank you to the many that have offered support.