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Parents call for action as Lake Travis ISD faces ongoing bus driver shortage

The back of a yellow school bus is pictured.
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
Lake Travis ISD doesn't have enough bus drivers, so it's having to cut routes.

Lake Travis ISD parents are urging the school district to take more steps to address the ongoing bus driver shortage that prompted the district to significantly reduce transportation services. Several parents raised concerns at a school board meeting on Wednesday, a day after the new school year started.

One parent told the Lake Travis ISD Board of Trustees he spent more than an hour in traffic driving his kid to school and offered to sit down with district officials to come up with solutions.

Another parent, Dean Leipsner said he’s been thrilled with Lake Travis ISD, but the district needs a nudge to solve this problem. He’s been in the district for 17 years and has two kids in high school.

“I’ve never felt the need to come out and speak. I’ve never felt motivated enough to actually say something to the board and to the superintendent,” he said. “But I think we’ve reached a point where they need to hear from a parent like myself.”

Leipsner said the district needs to do more to recruit drivers.

“We have beautiful buses, we have plenty of money," he said. "The issue is paying those bus drivers enough money to drive those buses."

Lake Travis ISD recently raised the starting pay for bus drivers to $23 an hour, which is on par with other school districts in Central Texas. Still, LTISD has 13 bus drivers to transport children receiving special education services and just over 20 drivers for all other routes.

The staffing shortage prompted the district to temporarily cut transportation services for students living within a 2-mile radius of their home campus. Students living outside of a 2-mile radius receive transportation services on a rotating basis, meaning they’ll ride the bus every other week. Bus services for students receiving special education services were not affected.

Lake Travis ISD’s Assistant Superintendent for Operations Brad Bailey told KUT on Tuesday that a few people have applied to be bus drivers.

“We have had three or so applicants come in and we’ve recommended one for hire and we’ve got a couple more that we’re interviewing,” he said. “It’s been slow, but we’re getting a little bit of interest coming in.”

Bailey said he hopes the district can recruit more drivers to expand bus routes this year. He added they would need to get up to about 60 or so drivers to once again provide transportation to students who live within 2 miles of their school.

“Because right now our current drivers are doing double routes," he said. "And so if we can get our numbers up higher, definitely we’d start looking at getting to that point of going back to normal as much as possible."

Leipsner said he thinks Lake Travis ISD will need to pay more than $23 an hour to recruit enough bus drivers to restore transportation services districtwide.

“I think a bus driver that is responsible for transporting your children [is] worth a lot more than that," he said. "So I think the dollar level has to come up significantly."

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Becky Fogel is the education reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at rfogel@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @beckyfogel.
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