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Bus driver shortage pushes Greece schools to make big changes to busing policies

The side of a yellow school bus with a red stop sign extended.  Visible behind the stop sign is a housing for cameras that are intended to catch drivers illegally passing the bus.
Jeremy Moule
Due to a chronic shortage of bus drivers, the Greece Central School District is making big changes to bus routes next school year.

School bus routes are changing at the Greece Central School District next school year.

The school board approved a resolution on Tuesday that will increase the walking distance to school and to bus stops for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Starting in September, students in sixth through eighth grade will be required to travel up to a mile to their bus stop, and high school students will be required to travel up to a mile and a half. That’s a significant change as the current walking distance to bus stops for those students is 1,500 feet.

Elementary students will not be eligible to be on a bus route if they live within 1,056 feet from their school.

“This will impact everyone, we get it,” said Dave Richardson, director of transportation for the district. “But instead of impacting one specific neighborhood or one specific school or one specific grade level, it's across the board equally impacting all of our students in Greece.”

Richardson said the decision is driven by a chronic shortage of bus drivers that began before 2020 and was exacerbated by the pandemic. Part of the issue today is money and competition, he said.

“A commercial driver's license is a very attractive certification right now,” Richardson said. “We have private carriers like Waste Management, and Amazon and Pepsi and Coke. All of those commercial trucking companies are all looking for commercial drivers. Many of them are offering wages much higher than the public districts can offer."

Richardson said he anticipates that there will be about 120 bus drivers to transport about 10,000 students to 97 schools and programs. To compensate for limited staffing, the district also is combining bus routes for charter and private school students.

The district also will modify some bus routes so that students in private and charter schools would share school buses. That would affect the amount of time those students are on a bus and possibly require before- and after-school supervision at their schools.

“This is a real issue. It's not new, though,” said Superintendent Kathy Graupman. “It's also not just Greece. This is something that we've been studying as a school district and as a school board for multiple years. ... While we're struggling, we're also looking to do something about it.”

Graupman, who announced her retirement on Tuesday, said the changes are necessary to improve students’ access to quality education and extracurricular activities.

"What that (limited transportation staff) has looked like for us as a school district is everything from students getting to school late to drivers combining runs, and doing more than one run, to ... having to cancel after-school activities because we can't necessarily provide the transportation.”

Overall, the district anticipates the changes will cut nearly 40 bus routes. The cuts would not affect students who are identified as homeless or experiencing housing instability.

Federal law mandates equal access to public education for homeless students. The Greece district received $375,000 in grant funding to support students who are classified under the federal law as homeless in 2022. That funding expires at the end of next school year.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.