(WKBN) – It’s that time of year again — the kids are headed back to school, but the transportation side of things may look a little different. Over the last year or so, bus driver shortages have been an issue in many local school districts.
Between a lack of bus drivers and higher costs to run the school buses, some districts are using the bus cluster technique. We’re told it’s more efficient and will save the districts some coin.
Craig Hockenberry, the Poland Local Schools’ superintendent, showed off the district’s new bus clusters — a route that eliminates stops at each driveway due to the bus driver shortage the district is facing.
“Right behind me are what we call cluster stops. This is not something new. Cluster stops have been done for years. It’s where several kids all report to a particular bus stop,” he said.
The district has a total of 45 stops for fourth through 12th graders.
According to Hockenberry, the statute states that students can only walk half a mile to the clusters.
“We’ll be making less stops, making ourselves more efficient and have less buses,” he said.
Another school district is using this new plan as well. However, it’s due to rising transportation costs.
“We are quickly coming upon a deficit and one of the ways that we tried to save money was by reducing the amount of bus drivers that we had,” said Lakeview High School Assistant Principal Michael DeToro.
DeToro says the cluster stops trimmed about $80,000 from the district’s general fund, and it can still get every student to school.
“We are still bussing 100 percent of our district. Everybody is eligible to ride the bus to and from school. We just made those buses carry more people,” DeToro said.
Both district leaders say safety is at the forefront of these plans.
“We have four school police officers. We gave them a list of where our bus stops are so if there’s any issues, they’ll know where to go, and they’re going to make some directed patrols,” Hockenberry said.
There is a concern over the lack of sidewalks and street lights in Poland though.
As far as safety for Lakeview cluster stops, we’re told they looked at each stop to make sure it was suitable for the students.