The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

Bus scheduling issues plague school sports and activities

Teams, athletes forced to leave early for games and miss instructional hours
Maya Smith

USD 497 is familiar to facing issues with buses. With student athletes leaving school hours earlier than previous years for away games, it’s leading teachers to wonder if time in the classroom isn’t being prioritized. 

In reality, the problem at hand is a shortage of drivers for transportation.

As LHS athletic director, Mike Gillman prioritizes student athletes’ success in the classroom and in their sport. Gillman worries about athletes having less and less time in the classroom due to such early dismissal.

“It has a major impact. Loss of instructional time is obviously the most important thing that I have to take into consideration about [athletes] leaving class,” Gillman said. “Our student athletes are pretty good about being on top of that game plus their sports or their education. I think they do a good job on that stuff, but it still scares me.”

Maya Smith

Athletic secretary Emily Cates has had to adapt scheduling buses for athletics to strict times of before 1:00 p.m. or after 4:15 p.m. on weekdays excluding Wednesdays. If a team has a 5:00 p.m. game, they could be leaving the school as early as 1:00 p.m.

“It’s definitely impacting classroom time. When we know that somebody has to leave early, Mr. Gillman contacts the athletic director at the other school, depending on the event, they can make arrangements for the room for them to study in,” Cates said. “Sometimes they’re just told that they’re going to be sitting at the field for a couple hours, especially if it’s at ODAC or CBAC.”

The bus driver shortage extends well beyond Kansas schools. Nationally, the strict hours, low pay and licensing requirements have plummeted numbers of drivers by 15.1% when compared to pre-pandemic numbers. According to the National Education Association, “inconsistent [transportation] can disrupt learning time and contribute to absenteeism.” 

Despite the need for buses nationwide, districts find it difficult to find drivers to hire; 7.8% of drivers still make wages below the poverty line.

The issue extends beyond finding drivers and getting athletes to their events. Activities like debate and forensics have been fighting to get transportation to their events since the fall.

“There were a couple of weeks where we did need a bus during the week, and we were required to leave much earlier than we otherwise would have preferred,” debate and forensics coach Jeff Plinsky said. “This means our students missed an extra hour [or] class period of classes on those days. This wasn’t a large impact on our program, but only because we could access activity vans. Had our team been larger, a van would not have held enough people for me to drive them all myself.”

Nearby school districts are facing the same problem. For Olathe Public Schools next year, high school, middle school and elementary start times will be staggered by a total of almost an hour to accommodate for the lack of bus drivers. Until districts like USD 497 can find more drivers, schools are left to problem-solve to get athletes and students to activities on time, even if instructional time suffers.

“The only real solutions are going to be to get more drivers so that we can get all the trips covered that everybody’s requesting,” Cates said. “On the school end, it’s not just Lawrence. All the school districts are experiencing the same problems.”

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About the Contributor
Maya Smith
Maya Smith, Red and Black Co-Editor in Chief

I am a second year editor-in-chief of the Red and Black Yearbook and have been on staff for three years. I am considered a jack of all trades - I take photos, write, design, and do lots and lots of live reporting. When I’m not working on journalism, I’m a part of IPS, Student Council, Unified Sports, Link Crew, and Hang12.

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