District removes bus route

Revere canceled bus route “X” on January 17, and students affected by the change were filtered onto other buses. 

Due to a lack of bus drivers in the district, Revere had to shut down bus route “X” altogether. With only 1 sub driver, there are currently 22 full time bus drivers. This number will soon decrease due to resignation.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Tefs explained that the district is losing drivers more quickly than they can rehire. 

“Over the holiday break, we lost three drivers . . . We lost our [most recent] driver the Friday before Martin Luther King Day, which was going to [make] the transportation supervisor drive and mechanics have to drive,” Tefs said. 

Revere transportation supervisor Justin Miller is currently driving kids every morning to help out with the current shortage of drivers and has been doing so ever since the end of winter break. He has also had to drive eight times in the afternoon. 

Tefs explained how having Miller driving buses could impact the other drivers. 

“The transportation supervisor sits in an office with a radio and cameras. He knows where every driver is. If one driver gets stuck, has a mechanical breakdown or can’t find a student . . . drivers now are calling to dispatch and there’s nobody there,” Tefs said. 

Miller cannot always finish his office tasks on top of driving kids. 

“It affects getting all of the tasks done in the office, because I am obviously on the roads instead of being in [the office] doing the stuff that I need to get done. Certain projects here have a longer lag time now because . . . I’m not working here as much as I should be,” Miller said.

Miller explained why they chose to cancel bus route “X”. 

“We needed to consolidate a route due to the shortage of actual bus drivers to cover all of the [routes] we had. That was one of the routes that did not have a permanent driver on it at the time, and it was the easiest [route] for us to consolidate in order to . . . keep the times close to what they were already,” Miller said. 

Tefs explained that their plan to integrate the kids on bus “X” onto other buses did go as they wanted it to. 

“This did work. The maximum impact it had on another route was about four to five minutes. Pick up times [and] drop off times ranged from one minute to five minutes,” Tefs said. 

Route “X” was essentially in the center of other bus routes, and the kids from bus “X” were filtered into five other buses. Not only did the pick up and drop off times change, but the bus stops were slightly changed as well. 

Buses used to drop off and pick up kids at their door, but this is not always the case today, due to the absorption of a route. If drivers were always to go door to door, the bus would get too far off schedule. Drivers are having to consolidate stops to keep the bus on time. For a student, the impact of stop consolidation is having to walk farther in the cold during wintertime. 

Bus driver Linda Skunta drives route “W,” which was affected by the route consolidation. About fifteen students were added to both her elementary and middle school/high school routes. 

“We have to double and triple up [in the seats] for the kids, and we don’t like to do that, but we have to. The little ones have to sit three to a seat,” Skunta said. 

A commercial driver’s license is required to become a bus driver. Tefs explained why this could potentially be pushing people away from the job. 

“Securing a commercial driver’s license is not an easy process. It is a difficult license to obtain, and then it is a difficult job,” Tefs said.

Between now and August, the district hopes to hire four new drivers. 

Skunta explained how this shortage of bus drivers is not just a problem for Revere but many other schools as well. 

“We wish we had more drivers. . . . Every school is facing it,” Skunta said. 

Tefs explained how the district is growing, and they are going to need to be adding more routes in the future.

“With a new [housing] development north of Richfield that will be building up this year. . . we are going to need to be running a route [through] there. We need to be adding routes, not deleting routes,” Tefs said. 

Just as students and teachers will not always have perfect attendance, the same goes for bus drivers. Tefs explained how days off with only one sub driver could potentially be an issue. 

“People don’t always consider that we don’t always have a 100% attendance rate. When we are down a few drivers. . . and we are as tight [on drivers] as we are right now, who drives the route when that driver needs a sick day?,” Tefs said. 

By the start of the 2023-24 school year, the district also hopes to have a full time sub driver, as the current sub can only drive intermittently, and also hopes to be able to replace bus route “X”.