Butler Area School District short of almost 20 bus drivers since beginning of school year

BUTLER, Pa. — The Butler Area school district is down several bus drivers, like many other school districts.

Since the beginning of the school year, the school has been short almost 20 bus drivers.

They need more than 100 bus drivers to transport more than 6,600 students. However, they only have about 80 drivers.

Due to the shortage, the school had to reroute the district, which means pick up and drop off times changed drastically, there are more kids on each bus and students have very long bus rides.

Our first student in the morning for our secondary school gets picked up at 6:08am for school that starts after 7:30am so that’s a really long ride,” said Dr. Brian White, superintendent of the Butler area school district.

In order to help, the federal government temporarily waived the “under the hood” test requirement for bus drivers which requires them to know the parts of the engine, how they operate and more. The Butler superintendent was happy to hear this because he believes it’s unnecessary.

“If a bus were to break down on the side of the road, the driver would most likely call the dispatch and ask for a vehicle to get them. They would not try to repair the bus because they have to stay with the students on the bus so many have felt,” said Dr. White.

However, Dr. White said the state’s Department of Transportation will not waive it.

In a letter sent to schools, they said even though the temporary waiver is a step in the right direction, it does not fully get to the heart of the issue. The state also said its not feasible because there is not enough time for PennDOT to change testing procedures and update training by March 31 and the state doesn’t currently have a “school bus only” restriction for commercial driver’s licenses issued.

“They cited school buses go in and out of the state as part of their normal runs. If they are authorized to run in one state but the other, it creates an issue,” said Dr. White. “It’s frustrating because people are trying but things aren’t coming to fruition to increase the number of bus drivers available to us.”

Dr. White said he doesn’t see this problem going away and it could impact next school year. He wants the waiver to become permanent and hopes it’s implemented in Pennsylvania. Channel 11 reached out to the state’s Department of Transportation for comment but are still waiting to hear back.