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AKRON, Ohio (WJW)– A shortage in school transportation employees is putting Northeast Ohio districts in a bind.

“In Lorain County, we are really struggling. We are in need of bus drivers. We could use substitute bus drivers, drivers who do the regular routes. We would take anything at this point. We have just a shortage here across all of our districts,” said superintendent Franco Gallo of the Educational Service Center of Lorain County.

They help support the county’s 14 districts, charter and parochial schools, and Gallo said they could use 50 drivers across the board. 

“The shortage really started I think before COVID and then when COVID hit it just made things worse.”

Akron Public Schools said lower capacity on buses because of COVID-19 present another complication to its understaffed routes. 

“Akron Public is down 15 CDL drivers, bus drivers and we’re down 50 to 60 independent contract van drivers,” said transportation coordinator Bill Andexler. That will have an impact on students. “Unfortunately, you’re gonna see buses running late… By law, I’m required to take our children home first then do your extra trips, your sports trips. Now those get delayed.”

Shaker Heights City Schools is also in need of about seven to 15 more bus drivers.

“We’re very happy with the bus drivers we have and they do a fantastic job, but we have more needs that we’re unable to meet with our own bus driving staff,” said superintendent Dr. David Glasner.

He said they try to eliminate any barriers a potential hire might have.

“Like other school districts around here, we also pay for the training needed for a commercial driver’s license.” Akron Public pays for the classes as well.

The bus driver shortage is affecting districts nationwide with educators attributing it to a competitive field with a small pool of workers.

“There are all sorts of other professions right now, all the shipping that being done with online companies and so those folks are being scooped up by them,” Gallo said.

Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools superintendent Steve Thompson said they are in a better position releasing this statement:

“There has been a critical shortage of school bus drivers in districts across the country for many years and the pandemic has only exacerbated this problem. Many drivers are not returning to their jobs because of pre-existing conditions, health concerns or fear of contracting COVID-19. 

“Fortunately, through our partnership with Petermann Transportation, we have been able to hire enough drivers to cover our scheduled routes. At this time, we are still in the process of hiring substitute drivers and training them so that they are ready in the event a driver is absent. I know that we are one of the more fortunate districts and hope that we will continue to retain enough drivers to run smoothly this school year.”

The Ohio Department of Education formed a task force to help support the state’s school districts. Andexler is on it.

“We’re all trying to work together as a team to solve this problem,” he said.

ESC of Lorain County has links to each district’s job postings here. There is also a shortage of substitute teachers, custodians, food service workers and educational audiologists.  

You can find more information on Akron Public School’s open positions here and Shaker Heights City Schools here. Akron is looking for educational assistants as well and Shaker is trying to fill food service worker positions.

In addition to bus drivers, Willoughby-Eastlake is also looking for food service workers and student monitors. That posting can be found here.