PERRYSBURG – Some Perrysburg High School students are on the bus for over an hour every afternoon as the district struggles to find bus drivers.
During the first few days of school, seven buses were arriving at the school 30 minutes late after finishing other runs.
The district hired someone to monitor a study table for those students.
Once the bus arrived, students weren’t on it very long, but there was a complaint filed with the Ohio Department of Education, said Superintendent Tom Hosler at the Sept. 18 school board meeting.
A complaint cannot be considered in the first weeks of school because transportation is very fluid, he said. However, if an appropriate complaint is made, the district faces a fine in excess of $6,000 each day the district is in violation, as outlined in Ohio Revised Code.
Hosler said he thought they made a good compromise with the study tables, “but the law is the law, and we have to comply,” he said.
So now, students are picked up the school on time, but are on the bus longer before being dropped off at home.
A lot of parents are unhappy with these changes, and we are too, Hosler said.
“We’re busing all of our students, we’re getting them where they need to go but it’s not the way we intended or efficient,” Hosler said.
Those seven high school routes were combined with seven other existing routes there are no drivers for, in order to pick up students in a timely manner. That has resulted in double the distance covered, and the amount of time students are on the bus, he said.
There are some high school riders on the bus anywhere from 45-80 minutes. Previously, students were on the bus for 25-30 minutes.
“My biggest concern is the 45 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes because of a complaint with ODE,” said board member Ray Pohlman.
Fewer than 20 students are on the bus that long, said Courtney Parr, director of transportation.
“That is really sad,” Pohlman said, and asked if a tutor could be put on the bus to provide homework help.
“I understand the complaint, but I don’t think it’s common sense …” he said.
“I think this is something that we and the (school) boards of Ohio have to take up and work with the legislature,” said board President Eric Benington.
The district has seven unfilled bus driver positions and 35 routed drivers.
Buses travel 2,681 miles each day, which is equivalent to going to the Florida Everglades and back, Hosler said.
Bennington said he could remember when daily mileage equaled a trip to Disney World and back.
Daily routes include 14 for the high school, 15 for the junior high and Hull Prairie, five for Frank Elementary, four each for Fort Meigs and Toth elementaries, and six for Woodland Elementary. Then there are the 11 routes for special needs students and parochial students.
In the past year, the district has added eight elementary routes.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of riders that need to be bused into our buildings,” Hosler said.
Drivers are also needed for athletic trips. Nine buses are needed for the high school varsity football and marching band for away games.
The district also is required to transport private and parochial students who attend schools within 30 minutes of Perrysburg.
The district has 10 substitute bus drivers but many of them don’t want daily routes.
“They work other jobs, and they want to pick and choose when they want to work, or they don’t want the stress of a daily route,” Hosler said.
There are four people currently being trained to become a bus driver, but that could take 10 weeks.
Drivers for Perrysburg are among the highest paid in the area, at $21.98 per hour. Substitute drivers are paid $19.36 per hour.
Hosler warned there will be an increase in riders as sports seasons end and as student populations continue to grow.
The four new drivers will be placed on the high school routes, Parr said.
We can’t do anything else without more drivers, Hosler said.