Marin County Elementary School struggles to provide bus transportation for students due to driver shortage



MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) – The nationwide shortage of school buses and school bus drivers is having a big impact on a community in Marin County.

The Marin City Sausalito School District says it has struggled for months to find a reliable option for their young elementary students who have to go from Marin City to Sausalito.

Until Wednesday afternoon, when a short-term solution was found, several families believed they would have no way to send their children to school next week when classes began after the winter break.

“They say we won’t have any transportation for our kids to come here,” Teyonna Allen, whose 7-year-old son Jaydn visits the Nevada Street campus in Sausalito, told ABC7 News. “I rely a lot on transportation so that he can come here and come back safely.”

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Jadyn is one of dozens of children from Marin City who recently started attending Sausalito School. This is part of the neighborhood “unification” plan to better integrate their schools. Superintendent Dr Itoco Garcia said this created an unintentional logistical problem at a time when school buses were scarce.

“People who are normally happy to take a bus contract have told us things like, ‘Well we can’t provide you with a quote because we don’t have any drivers who could do the route. Garcia told ABC7 News. “Or, ‘we don’t want to give you a quote because we don’t have a bus that could fill the route.'”

Since the start of the school year, the district has a bus transportation contract with Marin Transit, which primarily serves older students, and Marin Horizon. However, the Marin Horizon bus has often been unreliable. According to Garcia and Allen, it’s often late, sometimes broken, and sometimes didn’t show up at all.

Over the past few months, the nonprofit Marin City Performing Stars has had to step in to help. Executive Director Felecia Gaston said the group paid out of pocket to help provide additional transportation and support for students.

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“I don’t think it’s because Marin Horizon hasn’t really tried or wanted it to work,” Garcia said. “They face the same landscape and the same context as everyone else, and it’s really difficult to operate a bus schedule right now.”

According to Robert Betts, director of operations and planning for Marin Transit, the challenges are widespread.

“The most important thing is just to attract new bus drivers,” Betts said. “We have shortages in our training courses. They are not as comprehensive as they have been in the past.”

Another challenge has been the new law that requires high school start time not to be before 8:30 a.m.

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“Historically, we’ve been able to reuse buses and serve multiple schools with the same public transport resources,” Betts explained, “but now pretty much all schools are starting at the same time, so we have to more or less reduce service and serve fewer students and schools.

According to Garcia, this has been a major issue for Marin Horizon, who is late due to conflicting traffic and departure times.

For this reason, the district recently canceled its current contract with Marin Horizon. But seeing no other option this week, Wednesday afternoon, the neighborhood changed course. Garcia said the district will have Marin Horizon buses after the winter break.

It is a very short term solution to a much larger problem.

“We are happy to accept any form of philanthropy and support,” Garcia said. “We even contacted Marin Airporter, any transport company in our geographic area that has drivers or buses and is ready to help even for a few weeks.”

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