October 8, 2021

Bus driver shortages are spilling over to some after-school programs, limiting their reach

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Boys and Girls Clubs across Indiana have received millions of dollars in pandemic-related funding to support students' academic progress, but the lack of bus drivers is limiting some of their reach.  - (Alan Mbathi/IPB News)

Boys and Girls Clubs across Indiana have received millions of dollars in pandemic-related funding to support students' academic progress, but the lack of bus drivers is limiting some of their reach.

(Alan Mbathi/IPB News)

Transportation problems for schools are spilling over to some after-school programs. The lack of bus drivers or other staff across Indiana is hindering efforts to reach students who need additional academic support.

Many education leaders consider out-of-school support a critical part of efforts to enhance student learning after years of pandemic-related disruptions, with grants and other COVID-19 relief funding being offered to those who partner with schools. 

But there aren't enough drivers to meet the crushing demand for busing – including for some after-school programs that offer that supplemental academic support. 

Chantel Fowler is the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Hancock County. She said the school district buses stopped dropping kids off at the club during the pandemic, and at least a dozen kids don't have another way to get there.

"They don't have any intention of starting that transportation back up – I think that the reasoning that we got this school year was they just didn't have the buses to do it," Fowler said.

READ MORE: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

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Other sites are experiencing similar problems, and asking program staff to help cover the gaps.

Launa Leftwich is the chief operating officer for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Elkhart County. She said staff and parents are doing what they can to transport kids who need it, but it takes time and energy to manage, which she worries will eventually lead to burn out.

"We're finding that these are the barriers keeping us from returning to normal, returning to better," Leftwich said. 

Leftwich said it's not sustainable in the long-term, but she is looking for ways to partner with other organizations for solutions.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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