CRANSTON, R.I (WPRI) — Parents in Cranston are being asked to drive their kids to school if possible due to a districtwide shortage of bus drivers.
The city employs its own bus drivers and said children may end up getting home later than usual if they have to alter the bus routes to accommodate everyone.
In a letter sent to parents, Cranston Public Schools said it may have to “double-up” on bus runs, which could lead to delays.
“We recommend that anyone who is able to transport their child to and from school, to please do so. We realize that this is an inconvenience for many families, and we do apologize and appreciate your cooperation,” the letter reads.
Cranston isn’t the only school district facing a bus driver shortage. Cities nationwide are also struggling to hire enough bus drivers for the upcoming school year.
First Student, the largest bus company in Rhode Island, tells 12 News its seeing a major bus driver shortage this year.
“Every bus company is in the same position,” First Student Vice President Bill Roche said. “Our typical driver shortage is somewhere about 10% to 15%, but right now, we’re experiencing a 25% to 30% driver shortage.”
The bus company serves several school districts across the state, including Providence, Warwick and Pawtucket.
Roche said last year, especially in Massachusetts where the majority of the districts were learning remotely, First Student was forced to lay off dozens of bus drivers.
An executive order signed last winter allowed some of those bus drivers to return to work in Rhode Island, which Roche said helped alleviate the state’s driver shortage.
Roche said First Student is seeing a spike in driver applications, but not everyone who has applied has shown up for their interview. Others, he said, are still training and aren’t quite ready to be given a bus route.
“We’ve increased wages significantly, up 10% to 15%, as well as some other benefits with holidays, sign-on bonuses, retention bonuses, longevity bonuses,” Roche explained.
By the time the school year starts, Roche said there will be approximately 650 First Student bus and van drivers, as well as an additional 27 in training. Anyone interested in applying can do so online.