Education

Bus driver shortage, flu cause transportation delays for Elk Grove students

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The activity of flu-like illnesses was at high levels in mid-January in 24 states, including California, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
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The activity of flu-like illnesses was at high levels in mid-January in 24 states, including California, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A bus driver shortage, made worse recently by the flu, has resulted in transportation delays for some Elk Grove Unified School District students.

Cassandra Burgess-Alex said she received a phone call Friday afternoon from her son’s special education teacher at Florence Markofer Elementary School informing her that bus service for her son, who usually arrives home about 2:50 p.m., would not available until after 4 p.m. When Burgess-Alex called the district’s transportation department, she was told that the district was short of drivers Friday and transportation for her son might be delayed beyond 4 p.m.

Burgess-Alex said she lives on the other side of the district from Markofer Elementary, and when she arrived at the school at 3:45 p.m. to pick up her son, most of the children in his class were still there. She said her son, who has autism, is typically escorted to the bus by an aide, but the aide had had to leave for another assignment.

“It’s true that we have a shortage of bus drivers. That’s no secret,” said Xanthi Pinkerton, district spokeswoman.

The district has been working to hire more drivers, but few people have responded to the recruitment efforts, she said. The flu also has taken its toll in recent weeks, she said, making it necessary for drivers to pick up additional routes for those who are out sick and causing delays for students.

Pinkerton said the transportation staff followed district protocol Friday, alerting staff members at affected schools, who in turn notified parents of expected delays. Parents may choose to pick up their children at school instead of waiting for the bus, she said, but the district will provide transportation to all children who need it, although buses may run behind schedule.

Burgess-Alex said all the youngsters who ride the bus with her son are special education students. She suggested priority should be given to those youngsters because they may require special assistance.

Pinkerton said she did not know whether such consideration is given in determining which routes are served first when there is a shortage of bus drivers.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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