BONDVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Parents in rural Bondville, who rely on buses to get their kids to public school in the city, complain they’re not available on a weekly basis nowadays.
The Champaign Unit 4 School District blamed a bus driver shortage that’s been ongoing since the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
The district is “currently in need of approximately 30 bus drivers,” Chief communications officer Stacey Moore said Monday. That’s the same number of vacancies Superintendent Shelia Boozer cited in August.
Casey Heath is a single dad with two kids in two different Champaign schools. The youngest is in Kindergarten at Carrie Busey Elementary. He said it’s been tough to get them both to and from class all year.
Heath says “once or twice a week, you know, it seems like they call with no bus service,” including Monday morning. That’s why he was at home.
He said he and other parents on his street don’t get that call saying the buses won’t be making it until less than an hour before they should be pulling up to the bus stop.
“When they do that I have to take off work because there’s no way that I can call in late and then leave early,” Heath added.
“It was no bus service for this morning, and then they turned around at almost noon and said no afternoon bus service.”
The father of two works in construction and some days, his projects are more than an hour away.
“By the time I would get to work and then leave early, the bosses don’t really appreciate that,” Heath said.
Some days, Heath said he just can’t take off and take his kids to school. Instead, they stay home, “I would say a couple of times a month,” Heath told reporters.
Christy Hardy’s grandchild, Riley, is stuck at home closer to “once or twice a week.”
Hardy lives across the street from Heath. She said she’s responsible for making sure her grandchild and five other kids get on the bus in the morning. She said if it doesn’t come, she doesn’t have the space in the car to get them all to their various schools.
“We either have to take them or they don’t go. Usually, we have to keep them home because none of us can, you know, get them to school and from school,” she shared.
She said Riley’s chronic absence is putting him behind in school.
“There’s things that I go, ‘There’s no way you don’t know how to spell that.’ And he really doesn’t,” Hardy explained.
“If a child misses school because of a transportation issue, the family can go into Google classroom for assignments; families can also directly contact their child’s teacher regarding class work,” Moore said in an email responding to reporter questions.
Hardy says the response from the school district has been, “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Parents say, in the meantime, a little extra notice would go a long way.
“If I knew the day before, I could try to arrange another ride, but it’s hard at 6:00 in the morning to call people who are getting ready to go to work,” Heath explained.
“We inform families about transportation adjustments as soon as we learn about them,” Moore said in response.
The unpredictable bus schedule isn’t unique to Bondville. Parents across the district have been complaining since the start of the year.
Read the full statement from the school district:
On a daily basis Unit 4 School District transports more than 6,000 students to and from school. Our goal is to always ensure adequate supervision and safe travel for our students. We understand the frustration of some families and truly appreciate their grace and patience as we continue to do everything in our power to address this situation. We inform families about transportation adjustments as soon as we learn about them. If a child misses school because of a transportation issue, the family can go into Google classroom for assignments; families can also directly contact their child’s teacher regarding class work.
Like school districts across the nation, Unit 4 continues to be affected by the bus driver shortage. We are currently in need of approximately 30 bus drivers and continue to vigorously recruit bus drivers and bus monitors. We urge all interested individuals to visit our website www.champaignschools.org and apply TODAY. No experience is necessary and we provide paid training.