Valley schools seek route out of shortage of bus drivers

Local schools in Mahoning and Trumbull County are experiencing bus driver shortages.

These shortages are causing longer routes, canceled or suspended routes and trouble transporting students to field trips and athletic competitions.

Among school systems experiencing challenges due to bus driver shortages is Mathews Local School District. Superintendent Russel McQuaide said he and the Mathews Board of Education recently developed a contract with Ohio Developmental Supports Transportation.

“We’re all experiencing bus driver shortages, and we’re doing OK except (for) some of our field trips so ODS will help us with trips that (our bus drivers can’t),” McQuaide said.

McQuaide said he also struggles with some athletic transportation.

He said Mathews has only six staffed bus drivers, one of whom is part-time.

“It’s challenging to fill those positions,” McQuaide said. “There’s a lot of training that goes natural to the position. To get drivers is sometimes a bit of an obstacle because of the training requirements.”


Superintendent Traci Hostetler said she works with various school districts in Mahoning County.

“Every single district I’ve worked with in Mahoning County would welcome bus drivers,” Hostetler said. “Schools are spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to get kids to school in a timely fashion.”

She said schools are lacking bus drivers and bus driver substitutes, resulting in route combinations.

“They might be combining two routes into one bus now and (that) just (means) longer times on the road to accommodate for less bus drivers,” Hostetler said.

Hostetler also said part of the cause for this is due to public schools being required to provide transportation for private and charter schools.

“What we’re advocating for is for private and charter schools to provide their own transportation and for public schools to transport their own students,” she said. “Every school receiving public funds should be transporting their own students and that would help tremendously with public school busing.”


Superintendent Debra Mettee said Liberty Local Schools are also experiencing a shortage of bus drivers.

“It is an issue for us because we don’t have substitutes available if one of our drivers (calls off),” Mettee said. “We’ve had a couple of times this year we had to cancel routes. Earlier in the year we had to suspend a couple routes because there was no one.”

She said at Liberty they do “a lot of transportation for the Jewish Community Center, field trips (and) all of the athletic events.”

“Our drivers drive all those trips, and the JCC has a lot of issues and would like us to transport. They pay us,” Mettee said. “We do transport to the Career Center (Trumbull Career and Technical Center) and we also take a student to the Mahoning County Career Center (Mahoning County Career and Technical Center).”

Mettee said they have made it due to having “excellent staff with perfect attendance,” and by combining routes.

“Our bus supervisor does an excellent job balancing this,” she said. “We are always looking for bus drivers. We need bus drivers to take those extra routes.”


John Lacy, executive director of business operations, said recruiting drivers is a challenge.

“We’re better than what we were during the peak of COVID-19,” Lacy said. “We could still use three or four more drivers.”

He said despite needing bus drivers, they haven’t had any trouble making routes or extracurricular activities due to their partnership with Community Bus Services Inc.

“We have a contract with Community Bus Services, where they will send us substitute drivers if we need them but they are also having trouble staffing (their buses),” Lacy said. “We probably need two or three (substitutes) per day.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Hailey Rogenski by email at hrogenski@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today