DENVER (CBS4) - The wheels on the bus go round and round, but not as often as Denver Public Schools would like. Buses have been late to pick up students for school and many learning excursions have been canceled due to a driver shortage.
"We're stretched," Mark Ferrandino, Deputy Superintendent of DPS, said. "RTD is having the problem, we're having the problem. This is a national issue."
Ferrandino explained the driver shortage has been a growing issue for the last few years, pointing to a strong economy as a big reason bus drivers are difficult to attract and retain. Yet the problem has reached a tipping point for the district.
"We're about 50 drivers short within the district. It has a direct impact on providing the services we need to the students of DPS," he told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann.
Earlier this week, a letter was sent to DPS parents and families in an effort to be transparent about the issue and request their help to "spread the word" about the bus driver openings. While the district is doing its best to manage the problem, DPS is in a pinch.
"We have our mechanics, office staff – who are all CDL licensed – driving as well, and that's just not becoming sustainable," Ferrandino said, adding he doesn't want to contract out or cut back more services. "So there's either increased costs or lack of some of the services that are 'non-essential,' so field trips, athletics. We try to support as much as we can, but our first and main function is making sure kids get to and from school each day."
The ideal fix, of course, is hiring more drivers. It is Ferrandino's hope more people will see the reward of working with kids every day and earning a living while making a difference.
"We need people! If you're interested, please come apply," Ferrandino pleaded. "Be a bus driver, be a paraprofessional. It's a great team."
DPS has three different types of transportation positions open.
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