Breaking News
More () »

Busing issues cause frustration for parents as driver shortage continues

Shirley Zolenski is a parent of two kids in GRPS. She's shifted to work from home after too many missed pickups.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The school year is nearly over, but districts are still struggling with a lack of school bus drivers. Parents like Shirley Zolenski are fed up with Grand Rapids Public Schools missing pickups or drop-offs, and say there needs to be better communication.

Zolenski has two children who attend GRPS Schools, one at Kent Hills, and the other at Aberdeen elementary. She said at the beginning of the school year, the first few months there was nobody who could drive her daughter to school because GRPS, more specifically Dean Transportation, didn't have enough staffing.

"A few times we got her to school but they would call us to tell us to come pick her up," Zolenski said. "I had to leave work to get her since they had nobody to drive her home." 

Zolenski and her husband have offsetting schedules - she works overnights, he works during the day, and they would split bus stop trips so there was always someone to get the kids. After so many missed pick up and drop-offs, she switched to fully working from home in case she needed to pick her daughter up from school. 

Another added piece for Zolenski is that both of her children have diagnoses of Autism, and have IEPs (individualized education plans) laying out the requirements to accommodate their needs. Transportation is part of that legally mandated plan, but the driver shortage is making those accommodations much harder to manage.

GRPS did send a statement responding to the concerns of Zolenski and other parents:

“We certainly understand and acknowledge the frustration that some of our families have experienced this year with transportation issues. Transportation delays have been a challenge throughout this school year, not just for GRPS, but for districts around the region and state due to historic staffing shortages and unfilled vacancies. We have an advanced communication system that uses automated calls, live calls, and two mobile apps designed to inform parents if a bus is running late. We encourage our families to sign up for the Here Comes the Bus and ZPass apps at GRPS Transportation Department and to make sure we have their most up-to-date contact information on file for our automated and live calls.”

Zolenski says the automated systems work some of the time, but the majority are her calling to find out where a bus is if it's late, or if one is coming at all. She's hopeful things will change for the better, and GRPS can bring on enough drivers before the next school year to address the issues.

GRPS and Dean Transportation are also hopeful and have started to offer numerous incentives to increase applicants to combat the shortage. The previous starting wage was $17.20/hour, now drivers can start at $21/hour. Other incentives include weekly pay, a $750 signing bonus and paid CDL training. 

To apply for the driver openings, click here.

Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.

Have a news tip? Email news@13onyourside.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.