Bus Combinations Keep Adding Up


Sienna Schwartz

Students crowd to get onto a combined bus

Before the final bell brings each day to a close, there are announcements to be made.

Each day, new combinations of bus routes are announced, and students find themselves on different buses with longer rides. This predicament has led many to wonder why bus routes are being combined this year.

To find out, I spoke with Westport Public School District Coordinator of Transportation, Ms. Buffy Barry. “Between the driver shortage and driver callouts, currently, we do not have enough drivers to accommodate all the bus routes here in Westport,” said Ms. Barry.

This is a broader problem than just in Westport. Currently, there is a nation-wide bus driver shortage. According to Mark Lieberman, writer for “Education Week,” some school districts are offering promotions to teachers for driving a school bus in addition to a full day in the classroom.

Around the country, districts have been forced to cancel school due to a lack of bus drivers. Ms. Barry said, “Dattco is actively looking to recruit drivers on a daily basis; however, this has been a difficult mission due to the lack of applicants as well as the lengthy process it takes to license a driver.”

Ms. Barry continued, “Canceling school is not an option.” Each day, Ms. Barry assesses the number of drivers available to cover routes, and combines buses so that all routes are covered.

Ms. Barry noted many factors for deciding to combine routes. These factors include: “Routes surrounding the open route, number of students on both buses, driver familiarity of the area, and if the combined route can be done in enough time to service the next tier.”

Ms. Barry stated that Westport Public Schools often combine the same route for the sake of consistency.
Despite the nationwide bus driver shortage and no guarantee about how long this situation will last, Ms. Barry was optimistic about the future of bus combinations.

“Once the drivers have been hired and have gone through the proper training to receive their Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL), I look forward to less combinations and our fleet’s return to normal.”