5,000 miles of travel; SFSD releases school bus routes

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The bus routes that total thousands of miles to bring thousands of students to and from school in the Sioux Falls District have been released.

The school district uses School Bus Inc. (SBI) to transport students. School Bus Inc. president Steve Hey said about 90 buses travel about 5,000 miles to transport roughly 9,000 students each school day.

Students can’t be on the buses for more than one hour on each route, Hey said. That’s a school district requirement, Hey said.

“In practice, the number of routes that reach that maximum time is quite minimal,” Hey said.

The Cleveland Elementary School bus route is just one route in the district. The bus makes its first stop at 7:27 a.m. on N. Cleveland Ave. and it unloads at the school at 7:45 a.m., according to the SFSD website.

One of the longer routes is for Hayward Elementary. The first stop is at 7 a.m. at the intersection of West Hemlock Drive and North Holbrook Avenue. The route ends when students get off the bus at 7:45 a.m. at the school.

The routes for 12 elementary schools and five middle schools are posted on the website. The information includes the bus number and the stops on each route. Those using buses can enter their address on the website to determine the bus stop and the school the student is eligible to attend.

Buses do more than transport students to and from school.

The company does more than 4,000 activity trips during a typical school year, Hey said. More than 90,000 students are transported on those trips.

The company has about 120 staff members who have their CDL and are available to drive for the school district routes and charter trips, Hey said.

SBI needs bus drivers, according to a recent KELOLAND News story and 2019 KELOLAND stories on the shortage of drivers. It’s not the only school bus transportation company that needs drivers.

Bus transportation publications have discussed the shortage of bus drivers for at least the past three years. The National Association for Pupil Transportation published a study in the fall of 2016 on the shortage of school bus drivers.

“More than half of respondents (56%) who indicated that driver shortage is getting to be much
worse, also indicated that driver shortage is severe or desperate for their company or school
district,” the 2016 National Association for Pupil Transportation study said.

School bus driving positions can attract people who are retired.

In March, AARP ranked school bus driving as the fourth-ranked part-time job for retirees. According to AARP, 73% of all school bus drivers were over 55.

Hey said privacy prohibits him from saying how many of SBI’s drivers are over 65 but did say that in general, the company has some drivers over 65.

School bus drivers over 65 would be in the Centers for Disease Control’s age range of vulnerability to COVID-19.

SBI’s website said bus driving is “a perfect part time position for the self-employed, housewife, retiree, or college student just to name a few.”

Drivers who return to school bus driving this fall or any new drivers will be working with a structure developed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have adopted the COVID-19 cleaning and sanitation procedures established by the Sioux Falls School District and as contained in their Return to Learn Plan,” Hey said.

Whether students return to school in the traditional in-person model or in a modified model for several days a week, the buses must be cleaned in the same way.

The procedures include using sanitizing wipes to clean railings after each route and having hand sanitizer on the bus. Transportation staff and students are expected to wear face coverings. Buses will also be cleaned at the end of each day.

If the school district moves to remote learning, buses will carry food to designated distribution sites.

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