- Many school districts across the country are facing a shortage of bus drivers to transport students.
- One Colorado boy got around the problem by kayaking to school, local newspaper Summit Daily reports.
- He chose to make the trip by kayak partly because he likes “new adventures,” he told the paper.
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School districts across the US are struggling with shortages of bus drivers to take kids to and from school.
In central Colorado, one middle schooler whose Summit School District faces such a shortage took a creative approach to getting around the issue. Instead of taking the bus, 12-year-old Josh Smith kayaked to school, according to local newspaper Summit Daily.
The middle schooler had received the kayak as a gift a few years ago and decided to put it to use to get to school on September 8.
“I’m always looking for new adventures, and I’m always trying to do cool stuff that I’ll remember,” Smith told Summit Daily. “I haven’t really used my kayak this summer, so I was thinking it’s pretty warm weather, and tomorrow I should kayak to school, because then I can tell everyone about it.”
The boy started his journey around 7 a.m., recording it all with a GoPro. The temperature was 34°F, his father, Jason, told the newspaper.
Josh stopped by a small island along the way. The trip took around 35 to 40 minutes total, so he walked into class – still donning his life jacket – a little late.
Josh told the newspaper he wants to kayak to school again, and his father supports the idea in warmer weather.
“He was out there on his own. He wasn’t overcome by fear,” the boy’s father told Summit Daily. “I want to reward somebody for getting out of their comfort zone, especially at age 12, and being willing to be daring and take some risks.”
Summit School District’s transportation manager, Andrea Meyer-Pemble, told Insider the district currently has 11 bus drivers and needs five more to be fully staffed. Because of the driver shortage, the district is only operating 11 school bus routes this year, compared to 18 routes before the pandemic hit.
“They’re now covering a larger area than they used to with the same amount of bus capacity,” she said. “We’re spreading our drivers pretty thin trying to service the same amount of communities with a larger area to cover and more students on the bus.”
The district’s middle school students, like Josh, and high school students were placed in a lottery this academic year to determine who gets a spot on the school bus.
“We had way more applicants than we have space available on the buses,” Meyer-Pemble said.
For one bus in a certain area, for example, there are 66 students who have a seat and 78 students on the waitlist for one. Other buses have shorter waitlists or have been able to accommodate everyone who asked for a seat, she says.
A number of school districts across the country have also gotten creative in coming up with ways to manage the bus driver shortage.
In Chicago, parents received $US1,000 ($AU1,372) stipends for public transportation or Uber or Lyft rides to get their students to and from school in the first two weeks of class. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul directed state agencies to ask more than 550,000 residents who have commercial driver’s licenses if they’re interested in becoming school bus drivers. Earlier this month, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker activated 250 National Guard members to help drive students to school. One charter school in Boston even resorted to using a party bus with a stripper pole to avoid having to call off a field trip.
Many schools are also offering incentives like hiring bonuses to attract more staff, including teachers, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers.