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St. Louis school district will pay families to drive kids to school amid bus driver shortage

Parents willing to transport their kids will receive $75 in gas cards for each of the final two weeks of the school year.
Public School Bus
Posted at 7:10 AM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 09:32:05-04

St. Louis' school district is offering to pay some families to drive their kids to school as part of an effort to offset a shortage of bus drivers.

“We are excited to announce a new set of programs aimed at addressing the current challenges in transportation services,” Toyin Akinola, St. Louis Public Schools' director of transportation, wrote in a Monday letter to parents, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Under the plan, families who have experienced “chronic bus absenteeism” this school year will receive gas cards for the next two weeks. Starting May 13, all families in the district “willing to transport their children” can receive $75 for each of the last two weeks of school.

The funding will be available to families whose students are not tardy or absent more than once a week.

A school bus picks up kids.

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In March, Missouri Central School Bus Co. announced it would terminate its contract with the district at the end of the school year. The relationship between the company and district grew strained after a noose was found near the workstation of a Black mechanic and an ensuing driver walkout snarled bus service for one of Missouri’s largest school systems.

Missouri Central’s contract with the district was supposed to run through the 2024-25 school year, but the company had an opt-out clause.

A company official said Missouri Central asked the district for additional money in December "to address unprecedented industry inflation and a nationwide school bus driver shortage.” The district refused. A statement from the district said the company sought an extra $2 million.

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In February, mechanic Amin Mitchell said he found a noose at his workstation He said he believed it was meant to send a racist message to intimidate him after an argument with a manager over Mitchell’s concern that some bus brakes were inadequate.

In response, at least 100 drivers stopped working, some for a few days, leaving parents to scramble.

Local NAACP leaders called for a hate crime investigation. Although none has been announced, Missouri Central hired a third-party investigator. A report on that investigation is not yet complete.

The district is seeking a new vendor for busing services.