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From Akron.com / By Abby Cymerman / January 27, 2022
DOWNTOWN AKRON — In addition to facing challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Akron Public Schools (APS) transportation department is dealing with a bus driver shortage and severe winter weather.
Transportation Coordinator Bill Andexler said 20 bus drivers called off work on Jan. 24 due to personal and family sickness, as well as issues getting to work on the city’s ice- and snow-covered streets. There were also three school bus accidents that caused delays in morning pickup routes and after school drop-offs. According to Andexler, APS was not at fault in the accidents. There were no injuries and very little damage to the buses, he added.
There also was a power outage in Downtown Akron that day that caused backups because traffic lights were not working. Andexler said about 15 percent of APS bus routes go through the downtown area.
“[Jan. 24] was another perfect storm that happened,” Andexler said. “Yes, it was snowing, but we had a lot of drivers off and we had bad weather. With a combination like that, there’s going to be delays.”
When APS doesn’t have enough bus drivers, Andexler said routes have to be doubled-up, which means two or three buses may cover one route. On Jan. 24, 28 buses covered 10 routes and some students didn’t arrive home until after 6 p.m.
APS bus drivers typically cover 52 square miles in Akron with their routes, but they also travel outside those areas to transport charter and nonpublic school students, as well as those who are homeless and in foster care.
With the current nationwide bus driver shortage, Andexler said the district doesn’t have enough substitute bus drivers. The transportation department is currently training eight substitutes, he noted, but it is a two- to four-month process.
On Jan. 24, many of the substitute drivers also called off work, which forced Andexler’s qualified office staff to head out on the roads to cover the routes. That left his office without staff to handle communication with concerned parents.
Andexler said by the end of this week, APS is planning to implement a software program called Stopfinder that will allow parents to get push notifications on their phone about the location of their student’s bus and an estimated time of arrival.
APS bus drivers will be trained on a different GPS software program called Wayfinder in which they can call up maps when parked and take over routes of other drivers if needed.
Parents of APS students who ride school buses can check with their children’s school to make sure their updated email addresses are on file so they can receive the email to sign up for Stopfinder when it launches in the district.
To learn more about Stopfinder and Wayfinder, please visit https://www.transfinder.com/solutions/, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-373-3609.