South Callaway struggling to get students to class on time

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MOKANE- The South Callaway School District said it doesn't have enough bus drivers to cover its 15 daily routes.

Superintendent Kevin Hillman said this shortage is causing problems.

"Without enough drivers, it is very difficult to just get all the kids here on time," Hillman said.

The school district started off the year without enough drivers, and it is still looking to fill the positions.

"We have a few people that in emergency situations can double up, but they have other duties that they are performing," Hillman said. "So, right now with being behind and
short drivers, we got people working 60 to 65 hours a week just trying to keep up with their job, and the needs of our routes."

Becky Shoffit is one of the district's bus drivers. She said she drives a bus route before and after school, in addition to having a desk job during the day at the high

"It's a lot of hours," Shoffit said. "But, it's part of my job."

Hillman said administration is aware of the driver shortage, but isn't sure how to solve it.

"We meet weekly about what we are going to do, where we are at," Hillman said. "There is no great answer right now."

Hillman said the district's rural setting makes it challenging for students to get to school if they do not have the option to take a bus.

"We do not have that high percentage of our kids driving to campus," Hillman said. "There is no way that you are walking to campus from town. We are all over the place. We literally are struggling to have school."

He said the shortage also creates a problem for field trips and extracurriculars.

"You know it's not just getting the kids to school and home, which is the most important, but there are so many activities that we try to have as a school and opportunitiesfor our kids," Hillman said. "You have to pull a driver to make some of those things happen. So we're already using our sub drivers for the shortage, and it is difficult
to try and meet the needs of all those extra curricular trips."

The one idea Hillman said the district has come up with is to keep a substitute bus driver on campus.

"Right now if we didn't have that I don't even know how we would be managing our routes," Hillman said.

Hillman said the district has adjusted requirements for bus drivers, the biggest change being driver schedule flexibility. He also said the district has adjusted bus routes to cover the shortage.

"We have a wonderful transportation system," Hillman said. "We are just short drivers."

Hillman and Shoffit said the shortage isn't just in South Callaway School District.

Doug Coupe is the director of communications for Student Transportation, Inc. and said Columbia is a market that is historically difficult to hire enough drivers.

"We have 203 drivers and 196 routes. We are still hiring and will continue to do so."

Although the some districts are still short, this is the first time in five years Southern Boone said it doesn't need more drivers. The school district has 19 drivers who cover 14 routes.