AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – One of Northeast Ohio’s largest school districts reports it’s facing a shortage in two critical areas, yellow school bus drivers and independent contractors hired to transport homeless students and students with different needs to and from school.
“Akron has probably one of the largest independent contracted fleets in the state,” said Akron Public Schools Transportation Coordinator Bill Andexler. “Just like our bus drivers, we have a shortage of our van drivers too.”
For about 40 years, Andexler said Akron Public Schools used independent contractors to transport hundreds of students.
Lately, he said hiring certified people to drive the children is becoming more challenging.
Andexler said the district has 130 independent contractors and could use 30 more who need to serve about 300 homeless students and students with special needs.
Often, he said the students in this demographic do not live in Akron.
“If that child became homeless and they lived in another city and now they’re in Akron, if they’re at a shelter or something, both school districts have to work together because we both share the responsibility to make sure that child gets back to their home school,” said Andexler.
The district’s transportation department, Andexler said, works with 18 other school districts to transport children.
At times, the distance drivers must travel reached as far as Youngstown.
According to Andexler, there is a wait list for this transportation service.
Another complicating factor impacting hiring is competition with other companies hiring independent contractors like Amazon.
The work of independent contractors is critical, Andexler said, to ensure some of the most vulnerable children can get to and from school.
“There are so many signs out there for help wanted,” he said. “I mean, everywhere you go there’s help wanted. Just nobody to fill them.”
Independent contractors at the district often drive their own vehicles in addition to paying for insurance. Andexler said parent contracts are being offered to help alleviate the issue.