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Portland Public Schools Faces Bus Driver Shortage

The shortage stems from a difficult financial choice the district says it was forced to make when the pandemic hit in 2020.

Portland Public Schools, which reopened Sept. 1, now faces an acute shortage of bus drivers—it’s down 86 drivers out of a total of about 330.

The shortage stems from a difficult financial choice the district says it was forced to make when the pandemic hit in 2020. Schools were closed, the economy looked perilous, and Gov. Kate Brown forbade districts from laying off employees.

So, in spring 2020, the district laid off 186 contract bus drivers represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757.

Those drivers moved on as the demand for commercial drivers skyrocketed with the expansion of home delivery services and other economic shifts. PPS says about half the school districts in the country now face driver shortages they termed “severe” or “desperate” in a national survey.

Meanwhile, PPS says the driver shortage poses major bus scheduling problems.

“We have had, and will continue to have, some routes that have had to be canceled and others that have seen pickup or drop-off times altered,” the district says.

The good news: 50 new drivers have begun training.