Nationwide School Bus Shortage Affects Muscogee County Students
At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, there was a severe lack of bus drivers in the MCSD Transportation Department.
The cause of this lack of bus drivers was "resignations, retirements, and COVID," says Interim Director of Transportation Tracee Hill.
"The impact of COVID on the bus driver supply has not only been felt at the local level, but at the national level as well," she adds.
There were so few drivers that students at Shaw High School had to be picked up after a bus went through a full route, arriving at school an hour and a half later than they were supposed to.
A similar situation occurred at Columbus High, in which students had to wait at the shuttle station for "about 30-45 minutes" before being able to be driven to school, reveals sophomore Alaina Walker.
Now, as some of the kinks in the Transportation Department have been ironed out, students are arriving at school on time, but there are still other issues on the buses.
For starters, when a bus driver is not present, the students who ride that bus must be sent to another one. Resulting in longer bus rides, and sometimes forcing students to sit three to a seat, in the midst of a global pandemic.
"So far [my experience with the buses] has been smooth, [but] my new bus is very crowded," Walker adds.
"I have seen a bus completely full to the point [where] the bus driver had to tell a couple of people to wait for the next bus to come," reveals sophomore Connor Bharsar. "My morning bus typically arrives at 6:40 [and] the latest my bus has dropped me off is around 5:30 p.m."
"As for the mask situation, it is hardly ever [enforced], so few people take it seriously, at least on my morning bus," he adds.
In fact, the shortage of buses is so severe that Muscogee County is considering eliminating the shuttle station completely, with students going straight home from school, even if they aren't zoned for it.
Despite the difficulty of the current situation, Muscogee County employees are still committed to serving their students.
"As always, the safety of our students is at the forefront of any decision," Hill assures.