Edmond’s school bus crisis is the cause of a larger problem

Parents are upset about bus problems Edmond Public Schools has been having recently, saying they’re worried about their children’s safety.

“Since the incident she’s been afraid to come here [Crest grocery store],” said EPS parent Andrew Castleberry.

Castleberry’s daughter was on the school bus that pulled into a Crest parking lot when the driver got lost on the route and had both children and parents worried.

“My daughter’s school, no one is there, they didn’t send a message saying no one is going to be late, it’s been two hours,” a mother can be heard saying while on the brink of tears in a 911 call obtained by UCentral News.

This incident happened early March 2023 but there have been many other situations that parents find frustrating. Some parents have started to create their own car pooling groups so they can skip the bus entirely.

“Even right now I just got a text that the bus is about 40, 50 minutes late loading the bus up so they haven’t even left the school yet even though it’s 4:20,” Castleberry told UCentral when he received a text as we met up with him for an interview.

EPS says it is aware of the problem, but that it isn’t only local- it’s a national crisis. The main contributing factor to this is a lack of school bus drivers.

Currently there are 10 bus driver positions that are immediately needed to be filled. EPS said in a statement on their website,” A shortage of drivers coupled with more riders is affecting routes, leading to late drop-off and pick-up times, full buses, and inferior service.”

According to Kenny Haydon, a local bus expert and general manager of Midwest City bus sales the problem isn’t a lack of qualified drivers but instead the pay as other businesses offer more competitive wages.

“You have contractors fighting for them, and these contractors have to have drivers so they’re paying more,” said Haydon.

He mentioned another contributing cause to the school bus driver shortage is the pandemic. This is because a lot of school bus drivers are older, retired people, and they can’t risk being in an enclosed space with a bunch of kids.

An EPS spokesperson mentioned they also noticed the pandemic created a negative impact on their bus driver situation. Susan Parks Schlepp, EPS communications director, said they were making a lot of headway improving the bus situation until the pandemic hit.

While contractors are paying more, Schlepp says they are unable to do so with their current budget. She said the pay was increased for bus drivers just last year but to increase it again they’d need more money from the state.

Only time will tell if the bus driver shortage will improve with increased funds. In the meantime parents are looking for creative solutions to avoid using the bus system. If you would like to be a part of the solution and learn more about what is required to be a bus driver click here.

Take a look into the process behind this story with UCentral’s news team: Cal Haydon, Emma Nickles, Jocelyn Schifferdecker, and Hayden Smith. How did they find out about this story, what’s the timeline like for the problem, and what’s next?

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