ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – As many restaurants and stores deal with staffing shortages, the difficulty to hire people is also affecting local school districts.
Parkway School District said it is in a critical shortage for bus drivers and custodial workers in the district. They are trying to fill positions for about 22 to 25 bus drivers and 22 to 25 custodial staff.
“It is a nationwide shortage and it’s been going on for quite a few years. It just recently has hit us very hard,” Parkway School District Chief Financial Officer Patty Bedborough said.
Parkway’s recent tactic to get people interested in the jobs is a billboard that was placed on Manchester Road over the weekend. The billboard reads: “We need bus drivers for our kids now.”
“We’ve been trying advertising including billboards, and so far, we don’t have any applicants,” Bedborough said.
Rockwood School District is also dealing with shortages in bus drivers, child nutrition and custodial departments.
“At the beginning of the year we started we were down 31 drivers and we’ve only been able to fill four of those positions over the course of the year,” LaPak said. “We’ve already collapsed routes and we’re going to be looking at doing that again and we’re also looking at the walking radius that people will need to walk to school.”
Parkway lowered its bus routes to 88 instead of the normal 104 routes, but it may have to collapse even more if they can’t get enough drivers for the school year. Bedborough said the district is working on alternate options for the 2021-2022 school year including asking parents to driver their kids to school if they can, or putting three kids to one seat on the bus.
“But we’re hoping that we can get bus drivers so we don’t have to do that,” Bedborough said.
In the future, she said the district may have to look at more long-term options.
“We may have to look at adjusting our bell times, we may have to look at the possibility of increasing our walk zones, but those seem to be too much of a kneejerk to implement by August 1,” she said.