Area schools resolve most route issues from driver shortages

Some doubling of routes in Dixon while Sterling contracts with coach service for sports transportation

Despite bus driver shortages both nationally and in other parts of Illinois, Sauk Valley Area school district officials say they’ve been relatively unscathed in providing transportation to students.

Dixon Public Schools largely has resolved most of its bus woes, but issues with finding drivers remain on some routes, Superintendent Margo Empen said.

“We’re not fully back to normal, in the sense we are still having to double up a couple of routes because of a lack of drivers,” Empen said Tuesday. “But the timing is improved and we’re able to get kids back and forth safely. So that’s improving.”

Empen sent a message to parents on Sept. 2 saying the district was working with Illinois Central School Bus. The letter acknowledged bus driver shortages and said it was combining routes on a daily basis.

In other cases, drivers were handling multiple routes and office staff was being used to cover some routes. The letter also said that substitute drivers were already being used.

At the time, the district anticipated that routes would run longer than normal and that there would be late pickups and arrivals.

Empen said the bus company has been able to accommodate extracurriculars, such as transporting sports teams.

“We have fairly close trips and these are outside of the school day and not in the numbers that travel during the school day,” she said.

Sterling Public Schools

Sterling Public Schools contracts with First Student for its bus services. Superintendent Tad Everett said the service “worked really well in maintaining bus drivers at this point, maintaining every route.”

First Student has not been able to provide supplemental bus routes, Everett said. For that, he said the district has added coach services. Wiersema Charter out of Morrison and Green River Lines out of Peru are transporting sports teams to events.

Rock Falls High School

Rock Falls High School also contracts with First Service. Superintendent Ron McCord said that there had been staffing problems early on that influenced departure times for extracurricular activities, but “nothing that has been too much to handle.”

Regional Office of Education

The Lee, Ogle and Whiteside Regional Office of Education posts openings for bus drivers for those schools that maintain their own transportation fleets.

As of Thursday, the following openings were listed:

Bryon CUSD 226 needed one driver, Steward ESD 220 one part-time, Eswood Grade School District one, Meridian CUSD 223 one substitute, Oregon CUSD 220 one substitute and one full time, Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico CUSD one school van driver and one full time bus driver, Ashton-Franklin Center Junior-Senior High one bus driver and Amboy CUSD one driver for guaranteed for four hours with a $500 signing bonus.

Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.