ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – There have been a lot of problems with buses at Albuquerque schools this year, and district officials say most of the problems are because of a driver shortage that caught them off-guard.
Albuquerque Public Schools officials stress that a majority of the more than 40,000 kids that ride school buses daily get to and from school without issue every day. Some big issues have arisen early into the school year, including claims that kids had to cram onto packed buses.
APS says a bus driver shortage is largely to blame. All 15 bus companies the district contracts with have come up short by 10 percent, meaning there are only about 360 bus drivers when there should be 400.
“We did discover this on unfortunately the first day of school when they started reporting to us they were having trouble fulfilling all their routes,” Acting Superintendent Ruben Hendrickson said.
Acting Superintendent Ruben Hendrickson said they can’t shuffle routes around to different companies.
“We can’t do that now because nobody has the excess capacity to step in and take over those particular routes,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson says driving a school bus is typically a stressful, low-paying, part-time job that comes with few, if any benefits. The two schools that have had the most complaints so far have been Wilson Middle and Eubank Elementary Schools.
One parent said the first day of school is too late to discover such an unprecedented shortage.
“There should be no excuses at all. They should have what they need for the school year instead of worrying about not enough bus drivers, overcrowded buses and all that stuff,” Lee Sanchez said.
Hendrickson said they have been meeting one on one with the bus companies to understand the issue and how to avoid another shortage.
He said the district is looking at ways to put more money into its transportation budget. For now, he asked parents for patience.
“I’d ask them to be patient for now, we’re working among the contractors to find a way to optimize routes become more efficient,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson says he expects they’ll get the bus route issues ironed out within the next few days.
They are also actively working to get more bus drivers, advertising on the APS website under jobs.
There’s another bus complication this school year, the East Mountain Bus Company stopped working with APS this summer. Negotiations fell through and the district had to buy 18 buses the day before school started.