Bus driver shortage behind policy change in Middlebury Community Schools

MIDDLEBURY, Ind. (WNDU) --- Alternate bus stops will be a thing of the past in Middlebury Community Schools. Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, all students will be allowed one bus stop for their morning route and one bus stop for their afternoon routes. These must remain the same for the entire school year. The change affects roughly 400 students -- or less than ten percent of the district’s student population, said Superintendent Jane Allen.

She says a bus driver shortage is the reason behind the policy shift. It is to the point the transportation director and secretary each drives a daily route.

“We have lost drivers over the years, and we are now at the point next year, we are going to be down five drivers that we know of in retirement,” said Allen.

The current policy allows students to have two stops in the morning and two in the afternoon, leaving empty seats because of students who are riding their other stops for the day.

“Now we are condensing that so that our buses are full and we can provide a much more streamlined bus transportation,” Allen added.

Allen said the district considered expanding school walking zones. But, the subdivisions where this was possible did not have adequate lighting and sidewalks. Years ago, Kristin Tice’s children attended Westview Schools, but she thought the new policy in Middlebury is better than making kids walk farther.

“I guess I’d be more worried about them having to walk a long distance. To me, that seems more unsafe,” said Tice.

She thinks consolidating stops will require parents to plan ahead.

“It sounds like moms and dads are going to have to be very responsible. They can’t last-minute and call the school and change up something,” she said.

Allen said she understands the changes may upset parents. However, the route changes, she said, are necessary due to the bus driver shortage.

“This is one of our solutions to a problem I’m afraid is going to get worse before it gets better,” Allen said.

By April 28, parents must choose bus stops for their children.

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