Before the start of the school year, Albuquerque Public Schools knew the bus companies with which it contracts were understaffed.
Still, school officials believed they could handle all their routes.
That was not the case, however, during the first week of school. On the first day, Aug. 13, the district received complaints from families saying their children had extra long bus routes or were dropped off at the wrong home.
“We are now working diligently to turn this situation around,” acting superintendent Ruben Hendrickson said.
The 15 bus companies the district uses typically employ about 400 bus drivers altogether, but they now have only about 360 drivers on staff, he said.
Hendrickson said the bus companies reported they were struggling to fill all their routes after school started.
APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said this type of shortage has not happened in previous years, although she said most of the 41,000 students who take the bus are not having problems.
Although the companies hire their own bus drivers, APS has posted open jobs on its website.
Hendrickson said there is difficulty in attracting drivers to the job because the pay is often “minimal” and there are no benefits.
Before the start of school, APS was unable to agree on a contract agreement with the bus company that typically covers the East Mountains.
On Aug. 12, the district bought 18 buses at a cost of $69,000 and has hired its own drivers to cover the area.
Hendrickson said the district does not plan to take over any more bus routes than it must.
“Our preference is to stay out of running the buses directly,” he said. APS spends about $18 million a year on busing, Hendrickson said.
That money is a pass-through from the state, said APS spokesman Rigo Chavez, noting districts are funded based on how many students they take to school and how many miles those students travel.