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Bus driver shortage impacts CVCS

SINCLAIRVILLE — The Cassadaga Valley Central School District was not able to run some of its bus routes on Monday morning due to driver shortages.

On Sunday night, the district posted a notice to parents on Facebook that stated, “Due to an unexpected bus driver shortage, we are unable to transport students who ride buses 181, 182, and 187 tomorrow.” The message went on to inform parents that they had the option to self-transport their children to school or access content on Google Classroom remotely.

Superintendent Charles Leichner on Monday said the district, like others across the area, continues to struggle with a lack of bus drivers and substitute drivers. He said the issue came about as a “perfect storm.”

“One of the drivers had a planned absence, one just became ill and then another had a family situation to deal with,” Leichner said. “We just didn’t have coverage. We’re going to get together and debrief how the morning went. We just gave folks the option, obviously, of bringing their kids in if they could, and those that couldn’t would just access instruction and materials kind of the way we did last year. In some respects, even though we don’t ever want to do it, we were positioned a little better to help folks who can’t be here because we went through 18 months of doing it.”

At this point, the district has heard back from candidates who have their CDL licenses and who would be willing to get their passenger endorsement, the additional certification to be able to transport children. Leichner said the transportation department at the district is working on that issue.

“We’re chipping away at that,” he said, “but every district in the region and across the state is looking at that pool of candidates, so it’s just kind of a race to get folks certified as quickly as we can.”

Leichner said he doesn’t believe the immediate issue with busing will continue all week, but there could be issues within the next few days. Parents will be notified through a call, the school website, or on social media.

“Our transportation department is working every day to make adjustments to this complicated scenario with teachers, too, because we are short on substitute teachers, too. Anytime anyone is out right now, it’s a challenge to cover that,” he said. “Our drivers have done a great job of making sacrifices, driving extra runs, and being available whenever they are. Then you throw in the mix of athletics because we have so many of our sports teams are shared with other schools. That’s an added transportation burden.”

He said the district also has to work around students who are transported to other sites across the area, which can also be challenging to juggle.

“We’ve got kids going all across the county, and the same drivers that are doing all that work.,” Leichner said.

On Monday afternoon, the district released another statement on Facebook. It read: “We want to apologize to all the families that were inconvenienced by our driver shortage today. We appreciate your flexibility and want you all to know that we have been able to make the necessary arrangements for buses 181 and 182 to carry out their regular runs (today). Bus 182 will run as originally planned for the rest of the week, and bus 181 will be running regular routes (today), Wednesday and Thursday. At this point, we do anticipate bus 181 being unable to run on Friday, Oct. 22, but we are working to find coverage for that run and will provide an update as soon as we are able to do so. Once again, we apologize and thank you for your patience and understanding.”

Other local school district have noted the difficulties in having enough bus drivers.

“I think we all are struggling to keep our rosters filled,” Falconer Superintendent Steve Penhollow said in September. “Even though we may have the day-to-day stuff covered, sometimes with sickness or illness getting complete coverage is difficult. You try to use as many strategies as possible to fill those open spots, but I think we’re all facing similar issues, some probably worse than others based on location.”

Added Southwestern Superintendent Maureen Donahue, “We started the school year down two bus drivers that we’ve been advertising since June.”

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