The Omaha Public School District has been plagued with busing issues since school started last week; some kids picked up late, others not picked up at all. Some blame the issue on a breakdown in communication along with a bus driver shortage, but the bus company is working hard to fill those positions.
Student Transportation of America, which is contracted to serve the routes for OPS, is working hard to get more than enough drivers.
STA says in the spring they were notified they would have more bus routes because of 4 schools under construction, and since the eligibility was extended to students outside of 1 1/2 miles from school. The previous year students had to live 2 miles from their school to receive transportation.
STA says there are more than 50 applicants in some stage of the process to get their Commercial Driver’s License, and get behind the wheel. They’ve been running more advertisements in Omaha.
"The community is very concerned about the education and welfare of the children, those that have come to us have come because they don't have jobs but some have come to us who do have jobs and they want to try to work it into their schedule," said David Prince, VP of Operations for Student Transportation of America.
They brought in 6 out of state trainers to teach applicants so they can quickly and efficiently take their driving tests.
In the final bus route plan for 2016-17 given to STA on August 10th, OPS had 471 bus routes. In 2015-16, there were 419 routes.
Since the start of school 38 routes were consolidated, and OPS and Chief Transportation are running 22 routes combined. STA now has 404 drivers for 411 school bus routes, so some drivers are picking up children off of other routes.
STA says about 15 people have applied since the shortage was announced.
Forlecia Cox saw the situation, and felt it was a perfect opportunity for her to start a new career and make sure kids get an education.
Ii actually did see that and I made a joke previously to someone I was like; ‘You know I'm going to be there to pick up your kids.’ And look at me now I'm really trying to be there to help you guys pick up your kids because that is who wants their kids left out there on the bus? That's dangerous," Cox explained.
After passing the initial DMV tests, the drivers in training will have to wait 14 days before they can get their CDL, and get on a route.