The number of kids riding school buses in South Burlington seems to be back to pre-pandemic levels — most adults and teens are vaccinated and the promise of a shot for youngsters is within reach.

Hiring bus drivers is still a challenge, however, for districts all over the state. In South Burlington, staff are getting by with 22 main drivers and tweaks to the transportation plan every week or so.

“We have so many more kids riding the bus this year than last year,” director of operations and finances Gary Marckres said, likely as folks become more comfortable and more people get vaccinated.

The latest changes handed down last week come at drivers’ suggestion: Bus 22, usually ridden by South Burlington High School and F. H. Tuttle Middle School students, is only about a quarter full, Marckres said, so those students have been consolidated onto other buses to free up a driver for other district needs. Other buses affected include 8, 9 and 18.

In a note to families, Markres asked for patience as “some routes are longer and have more passengers.” He cited increased ridership and the “nationwide shortage of qualified bus drivers” as key factors driving the changes.

“It just creates an additional driver resource for when people are absent,” to support field trips, co-curricular and other after-school activities, Marckres said.

As far as pandemic protocols go, riders are still required to wear masks while on the bus and school officials try to plan for a maximum of 60 people on any bus.

“We are doing our best to keep our buses from being three kids to a seat. Knowing that only about 85 to 90 percent of what you schedule will actually ride every day,” he said.

Changes to bus stops and times usually move around for the first few weeks of the school year then trickle out less often, he added. Some bus routes are near 30 minutes, while others last closer to an hour.

“We definitely would love to have some more people, if they’re interested. We will train them, get them a commercial driver’s license, pay for that training. We’d love to have them,” Marckres added — they’re always hiring.

Next week could bring new tweaks to the district’s transportation plan so Marckres suggests to always check the district’s website for updates.

The school district has 22 total drivers and hopes to hire four more. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of bus drivers employed by the district.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexual language.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be proactive. Use the "Report" link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.