Over 200 unidentified stops worsens Highland driver shortage

by Chris Studor

Aug. 28 board of education meeting

An already difficult situation was made worse when approximately 200 parents in the Highland School district failed to report to the district’s transportation department that their child would need bus transportation on the first day of school.

Parents were notified through email blasts and phone calls of the need to schedule bus pick-ups, but failed to do so. That failure meant an immediate 20% increase in the already 1,000 students already scheduled for bus transportation.

The end result, district officials say, was a huge headache for Highland’s transportation department on the first day of school.

“This story has to be told,” School Board President Chris Wolny said at the Aug. 28 board of education meeting. “We usually have so much positive news to report but this is a real problem.”

Superintendent Catherine Aukerman has been speaking out since last school year of the district’s critical bus driver shortage experienced by the entire. Parents not reporting the need for pick up added to an already bad situation, she said.

“We have done everything we can do to attract new drivers,” Aukerman said. “We have raised pay, raised pay for substitute drivers, pay for training and offer insurance. “We can offer single routes, such as mornings or afternoons only, as opposed to picking up in the morning and dropping off in the afternoon. We have been advertising everywhere we can, newspapers, job postings, social media, just everywhere.”

Aukerman, as well as board members, repeatedly praised the district’s Transportation Director Frank Lawrence for handling the first-day crisis so well.

Aukerman said previously that the bus driver shortage would cause delays and, in some cases, buses would have to deliver students and turn around and do another run with students arriving or being dropped off later than usual.

“Having drivers do a second run is much more difficult in a district like highland that is 78 square miles as compared to say, North Royalton Schools at 23 square miles,” Aukerman explained. “We have a lot of millage to cover in the district and routes can be long. We are working to the best of our ability to stabilize the busing situation.”

In addition to a shortage of drivers and substitute drivers, Aukerman said the district is also in need of substitute teachers. Those interested are asked to contact the Highland School District at 330-239-1901.

In other business, the board:

  • Expressed appreciation for a donation of $629.20 from D & M wrecking to the High School Football team
  • Elected Wolny as delegate to the annual Ohio School Boards Capital Conference in Columbus, and Board Member Missy Schreiner as the alternate. ∞