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Driver shortages could result in no-bus zones around District 518 schools

Students living within a half-mile of District 518 schools would no longer be picked up by school buses, in order to alleviate the demands on a limited number of drivers.

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Worthington Middle School students walk toward the entrance after exiting the school bus Monday morning for the first day of class. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)
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WORTHINGTON — Due to a lack of drivers, District 518 may need to put a half-mile no-busing zone around all of its schools.

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Students have even gotten the vaping devices smaller by removing some of the elements and using a stripped cellphone charging cord to charge them, meaning a vape device could be just an inch long.
“We’re not here to just throw the book at them,” Landgaard emphasized. “We want to do what’s right for them… our goal is not to expel kids, it’s to educate kids.”
"As you walk through the halls of the Learning Center, you will see students collaborating with teachers and students collaborating with other students."

Superintendent John Landgaard warned the District 518 Board of Education's Operations Committee about the driver shortage during its meeting Tuesday morning.

"It's hard to find drivers," he said.

Bus drivers have been in short supply in southwest Minnesota and across the nation for quite some time, due to a number of different factors, including the pandemic, driver retirements, and increased requirements for those seeking a license that would allow them to drive a bus.

District 518 contracts with Bud's Bus Service for student transportation needs.

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Currently, there are 23 morning bus routes and 24 in the evening, and though the number of buses hasn't changed, there are more children who need rides.

"The federal government has put a whole bunch more restrictions on drivers training. There's a cost, I believe it's $4,000, to get your CDL bus license," Landgaard said. "Instead of helping the situation, they hurt the situation."

School board member Steve Schnieder said that the school would be willing to eliminate no-bus zones if they can find the drivers.

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“We just have a small space, but it’s a place to start. It is so totally awesome, though! The church is doing that for us as part of their mission work. It’s wonderful that they are supporting us by allowing us to use that space.”
"Safety is our first priority for our attendees and staff."

The shortage has left District 518 needing to use charter buses, which has increased costs for the school.

In other news Tuesday, the committee:

  • Learned that a van the school had ordered will not be arriving, as Ford has stopped making transit vans.
  • Received an update on the school's efforts to establish job ratings for each position, including job descriptions and salary ranges, which will likely be up for approval by the board in August.
  • Discussed a plan to build a pond on District 518 land, in conjunction with the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, and indicated the board would likely discuss the matter and potentially approve moving forward with the project during its next meeting at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Heard an update on the district's many ongoing projects. The Intermediate School still needs some sod and irrigation installed outdoors. The Community Education building is on schedule, and one side has been sheet-rocked. The storage shed has had some adjustments made on materials and its foundation, which will save the district about $100,000. The district office has been moved to West Elementary so that its building can be renovated.
  • Received two bids for snow removal for district properties. The committee expressed interest in splitting snow removal between the two bidders, which would need to be approved by the full board.
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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