Illinois school bus driver shortage could be worst in 30 years, officials say – NBC Chicago
A nationwide school bus driver shortage, the worst in decades, is hitting the Chicago area just as schools are resuming classes.
Now, some school districts are forced to prioritize bus schedules, with buses making multiple tours in a single morning to avoid overcrowding.
Cook-Illinois Corporation, which owns 17 local bus companies across Chicagoland, is experiencing the worst driver shortage in 30 years. COO John Benish Jr. said on Tuesday about 400 positions remained open.
“Some places receive 10 or 15 applications per week. Now we’ll be lucky to have two or three, ”Benish said. “We are in competition with the Amazons and all food delivery services.”
Benish says they’ve raised wages, offered bonuses, held job fairs, and even gone door-to-door. However, only a few applications arrive.
He attributes the shortage to mass retirements and time off during the pandemic. Not to mention that many drivers are reluctant to drive a bus full of children during a peak in COVID cases.
Last week, High School District 214 in suburban Arlington Heights decided to prioritize morning and afternoon bus schedules.
District spokesperson Stephanie Kim says the changes are not permanent.
“Some students will arrive at school a little earlier. Other students will leave school and come home later, ”Kim said.
Kim added that enrolling students in clubs and extracurricular activities could help ease congestion on buses at the start of the school year.
However, with new bus driver training lasting at least four weeks, the shortage could last until the fall semester.