North Penn explores new solutions to bus driver shortage

The North Penn School District has ideas to combat busing issues in the surrounding community.

Emily Courtney

The North Penn School District has ideas to combat busing issues in the surrounding community.

Towamencin- The amount of people driving yellow school buses to take kids to school has been declining at a steady rate for some time now. Furthermore, COVID-19 has not helped the situation and has aided the numbers to dwindle even more. Some schools have had to switch back into the online learning environment and are exploring the idea of permitting coaches and teachers to get a commercial driver’s license in order to drive teams to away games or simply get kids to school.

The North Penn School District, however, has mostly been on the fortunate end of this spectrum. Although the district started out the school year mostly staffed and ready to go, the number of people available has started to decline.

“We started out the school year almost fully staffed. We had one open run, where the bus goes in terms of which school, at the beginning of the school year and I thought we were in pretty good shape, and then throughout the last six weeks or so. We’ve had people who have gone on sick or personal leave and it is starting to hit us pretty bad,” Transportation Coordinator for the North Penn School District Nicholas Kraynak said.

He has been overseeing this entire situation along with the circumstances surrounding it. He organizes who drives which bus and what locations their route will consist of, as well as if there are enough drivers in general.

“We have to figure out who’s going to be driving which run, who called out, who is out sick, and how we can get these kids to and from school safely and on time.” Kraynak added.

On top of that, he manages the cleaning process for each bus, making sure that it is in the best shape for the students.

“[Now with COVID-19], more safety protocols are in place. Drivers clean the buses after every tier (the elementary, middle and high school) of every run, and when they get back to the yard after their morning and afternoon runs, they wipe down and clean the entire bus again. We also spray down the buses once a week with our electrostatic sprayer and make sure that every bus is stocked with masks,” Kraynak said.

In terms of getting new drivers who would like to help out the community, it is excellent for North Penn. However, it takes months for them to train and get to know the route they are assigned.

“If we hired someone today to drive a bus and they don’t already have their CDL, they likely won’t start driving a bus for another 2 months,” Kraynak described.

With regards to coaches getting their CDL and helping out athletes within the school, he supports it.

“We are still working through logistical issues with the Human Resources Department and Business Department, but it will definitely help even if it is just one coach driving. This will lessen the load off our current staff and would help out immensely,” Kraynak expressed.

Moreover, Mr. Donald Walsh, the Athletic Director of North Penn agrees with him.

If people are willing to get their CDL, they should jump in and get it. It only helps enhance not only what they do for their programs, but potentially other programs if we do run into the situation where we are short drivers for something.”

— Mr. Donald Walsh, Athletic Director of North Penn

“If people are willing to get their CDL, they should jump in and get it. It only helps enhance not only what they do for their programs, but potentially other programs if we do run into the situation where we are short drivers for something,” Walsh said.

He highlights how the driver’s availability is at its tightest when being applied to extracurricular activities such as sports.

“Trying to get drivers to one place and potentially back are really being impacted the most. There are for the most part enough drivers to do daily operations of the school buildings, it really becomes that extra curricular piece in transportation,” Walsh added.

The overall consensus for coaches getting their CDL’s is a mutual agreement that it can only help the district out. Even students agree.

“I feel that each coach has a connection with their team and wants their kids to be safe. So, if they got their CDL, it would be safe and beneficial to all of them,” Audrey Macnair, NPHS student and athlete, said.