Where’s My Magic School Bus?

Discussion About Shortage of Custodians, Bus Drivers

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Anthony Whiting

Parked in the school lot, Route 0320 Bus waits for students after school. According to bus rider and sophomore Jerome Henry, late buses are a part of his everyday school life. “[Late buses have] been following me ever since I was in elementary school,” Henry said. “It’s frustrating and I can’t get home in enough time to do things I really need to do.”

Anthony Whiting, Reporter

A kid late to school, running to his bus stop is a common stereotype, but this year it is more complex than blaming the student. A number of vacant positions presents a shortage in transportation and custodial services.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed janitorial and cleaning staff in elementary and secondary schools dropped from 320,670 to 294,420 as of May 2020. The change in employment of bus drivers is projected to change by 215,300 over the next decade.

For many students, like sophomore and bus rider Jerome Henry, the school day begins with the bus ride, but a five to ten minute difference can impact whether he gets breakfast or not.

“It’s frustrating and I can’t get home in enough time to do things I really need to do. I ride to school late and get home late,” Henry said. “[Teachers] are accepting, they understand fully that the buses can be late. [The bus driver] would tell us that he has to run a different route.”

Other students that ride the bus have only witnessed minor discrepancies, like congested traffic, relating to their bus schedule.

“Most of the time [the bus] is a little bit late,” freshman and bus rider Charlotte Adair said. “It’s gotten better though, it’s gotten more on time as the school year progresses. [The bus driver] said there was lots of traffic at the beginning so she was trying to figure out the best way to avoid the traffic to get to school on time.”

Along with students facing difficult adjustments to their school lives, teachers are spending more time and attention to classroom cleanliness and management.

“It’s an interesting year,” English Department Success Facilitator and current English II Sub Olivia Sarkisian said. “I would say a lot of [students] are used to being at home so there is some trash left behind even after I tell every period to just pick up after themselves. I have had to put some of the classes in seating charts because I can’t trust them to throw away everything. I did have to stay after school until six, [even though] I’m only supposed to be here until four-thirty, picking up, organizing [and] straightening up because people left a lot of stuff behind, which is not the most respectful to me.”

Assistant Principal Allen Stewart and other administrators have also expanded their duties to meet the current demand and ensure a working school environment to the best of their ability.

“I’ve had more duties now as a result of the staff shortage in order to maintain a safe, functional environment; safety including cleanliness of our school,” Stewart said. “The reality is we do not have enough custodians to vacuum the classrooms everyday like we used to.”

Custodian appreciation initiatives, such as providing meals, are managed by Administrative Assistant Linda Paris. There are ways to show appreciation to bus drivers, custodians, and if interested, contact [email protected]

“I commend our students [for] chipping in their part [by] being part of the community [and] to help keep our campus clean,” Stewart said. “We have 4 custodians at night, our normal count would be twelve. The transition between day and night [custodial shifts], we have been providing meals.”

Despite these challenges, the campus and community can overcome the staff shortage by working together. Continuing good efforts, by showing gratitude in maintaining a clean and orderly school environment, and finding shortcomings.

“We only have a few custodians, so I do my best to help them out in any way I can,” Sarkisian said. “This is a time where we all need to help each other and respect one another.”