INDIANAPOLIS — Pike Township moved to virtual learning today because of a shortage of bus drivers.
Pike Township’s superintendent Flora Reichanadter says it wasn’t an easy decision to move kids to virtual learning.
“Teachers are here today but we want our kids to be here too,” said Chris Ludy, president of the Pike Classroom Teachers Association.
Reichanadter says they didn’t have any other option because there are not enough bus drivers to get kids to school.
“We know it’s difficult on our families to get that morning call that says we have to go remote because we don’t have enough drivers,” Reichanadter said.
The district has a total of 86 school bus drivers.
“For us to go remote, it means we have less than 71 drivers available,” Reichanadter said.
It’s the third day Pike Township has moved to virtual learning this year because of driver shortages.
But they aren’t the only ones dealing with a shortage of drivers. In Lawrence Township, bus drivers are doubling up on routes while Hamilton Southeastern schools are averaging 26 open routes a day.
“There have been shortages in the past but nothing like it relates to what we’re seeing today,” said Ron Chew, president of the Indiana State School Bus Driver’s Association.
Chew says school districts across central Indiana are increasing wages and offering sign-on bonuses to attract new drivers.
“They’re being creative to eliminate the shortage of drivers and shortage of buses to get kids to school,” Chew said.
Chew couldn’t say why with those efforts there is still a shortage issue.
As for Pike Township, after the first round of virtual days, it did try to meet with drivers and find out what was happening.
“What we wanted to know was what’s the problem?” Reichanadter said. “What are the concerns?”
We asked if Pike would be changing tactics—like doubling up on routes to try and prevent more virtual days.
The district said that’s one possible method but it depends on how many kids are on each route whether doubling could help.
Pike Township teachers and bus drivers attended last night’s school board meeting, demanding higher wages.
School officials say they are in the middle of teacher negotiations where they are discussing both teacher and bus driver pay.
A decision will be made on Nov. 15.