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Tuloso-Midway ISD struggles to meet bus driver demand

The district said that if things don't improve soon, current employees will have to learn how to drive school busses.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A bus driver shortage in Tuloso-Midway Independent School District is causing issues when it comes to the 19 bus routes that students need to get picked up from.

The district is working to fill open positions by increasing pay and incentives for their drivers. However, they said if things don't start improving they'll have to rely more on current employees learning how to drive the buses instead. 

More than 1,600 Tuloso-Midway students take the bus to school. But district officials told 3NEWS that it's harder than ever for the current bus drivers to meet that demand. 

They said increasing benefits compared to other districts can help, but it's been a struggle getting back to the amount of drivers they had before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

TMISD Superintendent Steve VanMatre said the district is always running about five to seven bus drivers short of what they need to get students to school.

"It's a problem when you don't have enough drivers, it's a domino effect on the operations of a school day," VanMatre said. 

VanMatre adds that increasing hourly pay to $23 and a $3,000 signing incentive are a good start to encourage prospective bus drivers to apply. But TMISD Director of Staff Services Ana Elizondo said staffing numbers still haven't returned to what they were before COVID-19.

"After COVID, when we returned to work, very few people wanted to return to work because they were afraid," Elizondo said. "They were afraid of the children, being around the children, so we started to see it there."

Getting students to school on time is also a major concern for families in the district. VanMatre said their current drivers have to do more just to get kids to school.

"Double routes, which means instead of getting the kid to school at 7:30 [a.m.] and eating breakfast, we get them at school at 7:50 [a.m.]. They've already missed instruction," VanMatre said. 

Not enough bus drivers means some current staff members are trained to drive students on top of their other responsibilities. Elizondo said that hiring new drivers means they won't have to rely on that anymore.

"We would have what is needed available to us to get the job done and we wouldn't have to have people sharing different jobs and doing different things just to meet that need of getting the students to school," Elizondo said.

The district said the requirements for being a bus driver in Tuloso-Midway are to have a commercial driver's license, or CDL. Potential applicants must also pass a drug test and background check. The district adds that they can provide training for a CDL if residents don't have one.

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