WARSAW — During the first meeting of Warsaw Community Schools’ board of trustees for 2019, Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert took a moment to acknowledge a problem many school corporations around the country are having and paying tribute to the person he says is at least partly responsible for keeping that issue at bay locally.
Hoffert called out Mark Fick, the district’s transportation director, and thanked him for keeping all the school system’s bus routes running smoothly.
Throughout the country, and as locally as Elkhart County, school systems have been forced to have a conversation about how to combat a shortage of bus drivers.
“We had just talked about it a little while ago, but Mr. Fick, I want to commend you on great things because right now, our transportation routes — and we’re always accepting more people — but we have our routes filled,” said Hoffert.
Numerous school systems are looking at ways to combat a bus driver shortage. Some of the possible strategies involve changing start times for school days or converting to a four-day week. In 2015, the Indiana State Supreme Court ruled that public school systems are not required to provide free transportation to its school children. In 2011, a school system near Indianapolis opted to end bus service for its students as a cost-saving measure. As recently as 2017, a school district in Muncie was forced to close for a period of time due to bus shortages and this year in Elkhart County, school systems are scrambling to fill empty bus route positions.
Experts point to the part-time nature of bus driving, along with the booming economy and specialized schedule for bus drivers as contributing factors.
“We’re very thankful because that is a very high-need area that is out there right now and some schools are already considering their second semesters going to four days because they’re lacking a number of drivers,” said Hoffert. “I’m very thankful that Warsaw Community Schools is not in that spot right now and we’re going to continue to make sure that we’re out there recruiting.”
Hoffert stressed that while the district’s routes are all officially filled, the school system is always welcoming new applications.