Due to a shortage in bus drivers, the Novi Community School District is reducing transportation service through the end of 2021.

Due to a shortage in bus drivers, the Novi Community School District is reducing transportation service through the end of 2021.

Photo by Brian Wells

Parents begin adapting to change in Novi district’s bus service

By: Brian Wells | Novi Note | Published November 22, 2021


NOVI — If there is any upside to a reduced bus schedule in the Novi Community School District, state Rep. Kelly Breen thinks she’s found it.

“The upside about this is that it’s caused many parents to get to know other parents in the neighborhood, because we have to help each other,” Breen said in a text message.

Since Nov. 17, parents of Novi Community School District students who rely on the district’s bus service have had to improvise ways to get their kids to school.

In an email sent out by the district Nov. 10, parents were informed that bus service would be reduced one day per week due to a staffing shortage.

“We started the school year with the exact number of drivers that we needed for the routes that we had, and over the course of the first nine or 10 weeks of the school year we’ve seen the need to add a couple routes and we’ve had some driver illness,” Superintendent Steve Matthews said.

As a result, the district doesn’t have enough drivers to cover each route. So the district is reducing service for each route one day per week, which Matthews said is equal to about five fewer bus runs per day.

The new schedule took effect Nov. 17 and will continue through the district’s December break, unless the district can’t hire enough drivers, Matthews said.

The district is encouraging parents to work together to arrange carpooling, Matthews said.

“The reality is we’re trying to encourage parents to work together to carpool, to work in their neighborhoods and support one another,” Matthews said. “We know it’s a significant inconvenience to parents, but it’s more inconvenient on some level for parents when buses are either routinely late or don’t keep a consistent schedule.”

Breen’s kids are affected on Mondays and Fridays. To accommodate, she has to rearrange some meetings at work, but she said most people are understanding. If her kids were affected on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, it wouldn’t be as easy for her to make arrangements, she said.

In 2019, the City Council used grant money through Safe Routes to School, which helped improve safety along walking paths for students who live within walking distance of schools, which Breen hopes has made things easier and safer for kids who have to walk.

“Our hope is by the December break we’ll have drivers in the pipeline and we’ll be able to restore service in January,” Matthews said. “There’s no guarantee, but that’s our goal.”

To attract more drivers, the district is launching a new hiring campaign, advertising with billboards along Interstate 275 and Interstate 96, and in radio and TV commercials. The district will provide drivers with training and help them obtain their commercial driver’s licenses.

The district has also increased drivers’ wages from a range of $17.50 to $19.50 per hour to $18.60 to $21.41 per hour, Novi Community School District Marketing and Public Relations Specialist George Sipple said in an email. There is also a $500 referral bonus for current employees, and drivers who have a valid CDL upon hire will earn $500 after 90 days on the job. Drivers who are hired without a CDL will receive $300.

“I know that the schools are doing everything they can to recruit drivers,” Breen said. “But I know there are some parents out there that are struggling.”