PORTLAND, Ore. — Wednesday marks the first day of school for Portland Public Schools (PPS). For the first time in a long time, yellow buses will be rolling down streets, but not without difficulty.
PPS leaders say it has been a significant challenge recruiting bus drivers, and the district is not alone.
"We're looking to fill 100 driver positions right now," said Bill Wen of Orange County Schools in Florida.
It is not much better in Maryland.
"The pandemic has done a lot to deter people from applying to be school bus drivers because of the close quarters that you're in on a school bus," said driver Kim Hall.
In Portland, the driver shortage will impact bus routes at 17 schools: Access @ Lane, Access @ Vestal, Arleta, Benson @ Marshall, Chapman, Creston, Glencoe, Harrison Park, Jackson, Lane, Lincoln, Markham, Scott, Woodmere, Woodlawn, Woodstock and West Sylvan.
KGW has learned bus routes may be consolidated or pick-up/drop-off times adjusted.
"We know that the necessary changes to routes will cause inconvenience and last-minute adjustments for some families," Deputy Superintendent Claire Hertz said in an email to parents. "We apologize for that and thank you for your understanding."
District leaders say they are tackling the problem by pulling licensed drivers from desk duty in the transportation center and borrowing drivers from other school systems.
It is a tall task, but it appears to be temporary as PPS is hoping to be fully staffed again in a few weeks.