Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger has announced the bus cancellations for January, so parents will have time to arrange car pools before Jan. 4, when school will be back in session after the winter break.
“We have a great community,” Snowberger said, “and reaching out to our neighbors will certainly be a way to combat this cancellation impact. Please note that some students do transfer from one bus to another, and these cancellations will impact those students.”
At a meeting earlier this month, Snowberger told school board members the district will be forced to institute rotating school bus cancellations in January because the district is down eight drivers.
The district’s mechanics and administrators had been driving buses, but continuing delays stemming from mechanical breakdowns meant the mechanics needed to be in the bus barn and not on the road.
“We currently have one driver in training and four others in the interview process,” Snowberger said, “and are hopeful that we can rebuild the team once again to serve all routes consistently.”
The district has added a signing bonus of $250 for drivers who complete the training, he said. Bus drivers also get full benefits and school vacations off.
The district has faced a continuing driver shortage for several years, but it has become more severe in the last 18 months.
The district’s training process is essential for the safety of students, Snowberger said, so the district can’t just hire drivers with commercial drivers’ licenses.
Drivers must also know safety procedures for evacuating students in an emergency, first aid for medical emergencies and how to maintain discipline on a bus that may carry as many as 78 students.
The issue has made headlines recently as 9-R experienced a bus rollover in mid-November that injured 16 students as well as a second fender-bender at a bus stop.
Because shouting students had distracted the driver in the rollover, the school district instituted new behavior rules for students, including disciplinary measures for noncompliance, on Nov. 20.
The district will notify parents if the cancellations need to be extended into February.
Both Snowberger and the school board members are concerned that lower-income students, in particular, will find it difficult to make it to school when their bus routes are cancelled for the day.
More than a third of 9-R students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and at some schools, that rises to more than 50 percent.
Board Vice President Nancy Stubbs asked Snowberger and his staff to track absenteeism related to bus cancellations.
The state of Colorado does not mandate that school districts provide bus service for students, and the busing costs the district more than $1 million annually.
“We believe strongly that school buses are vital in a district as large as ours,” Snowberger said, about a district that covers from Cascade to the New Mexico border and the Montezuma County line across the Florida Mesa and up to Lemon Reservoir.
“You can’t educate kids if they’re not in school.”
firstname.lastname@example.org The calendar has been updated to show that the bus route that will be canceled on Jan. 8 is DW1.