School districts across SLO County faced with bus driver shortages

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

A significant shortage of bus drivers is forcing school districts across San Luis Obispo County to offer limited bus routes to students. [Tribune]

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District offers one bus that picks up students in San Miguel and drives them to Paso Robles High School. The bus is full, and there is a waiting list of students who could fill another bus. But, the district does not have a driver for those students.

While the driver shortage has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Templeton Unified School District has not had enough drivers for a full fleet of busses for more than a decade. The Templeton district transports a few students in a van from Vineyard Elementary School, its most rural campus, to Templeton Elementary School, where parents pick up their children.

The San Luis Coastal and Lucia Mar school districts both offer some bus routes for students. However, they are operating with few drivers and limited routes.

District transportation directors in the county say they offer competitive pay, and some can give drivers a sign-on bonus to help cover any licensing fees.

But, rigorous testing and school bus driver requirements may be too big of a hurdle for some to overcome, said Kelly Stainbrook, the transportation director for Paso Robles Joint Unified. Stainbrook said it is heartbreaking her district cannot serve its rural students and even inner-city students in general.

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