LAGO VISTA, Texas — Editor's note: The above video was published when Lago Vista ISD was still considering changing its bus routes.
Lago Vista ISD has decided to keep its current bus route system, but the district is still in need of bus drivers.
In late July, LVISD announced that if it didn't secure all the bus drivers it needed, the district might have to change its bell schedule.
In a July 25 letter to the LVISD community, Superintendent Darren Webb said that while the district is 100% staffed for teacher and paraprofessional positions for the 2022-23 school year, LVISD is experiencing an "extreme shortage" of experienced, qualified bus drivers.
Webb said LVISD was working with its transportation service provider, Goldstar Transit, to hire additional drivers, as well as evaluating routes and capacities to see what must be done to ensure transportation services are available for students who need access to them.
However, Webb said in the July 25 letter that if LVISD wasn't able to onboard several additional drivers and substitute drivers by the start of the school year, "there is a strong likelihood that the district may have to move to a three-bus route system," a move that would have necessitated adjustments to start and end times to make sure there was enough time to run all three routes.
KVUE spoke with LVISD Deputy Superintendent Suzy Lofton-Bullis on Aug. 10. She said district leaders were meeting that day to discuss the possible change to a three-tier bus system. She said there was a lot to consider with changing the bell schedule.
"You know, that makes a difference for teachers," Lofton-Bullis said. "It makes a difference for families, drop-off and pickup, it makes a difference for extracurriculars. So, you know, we understand that all of these decisions have impacts outside of just pick-up and drop-off."
On Aug. 11, the district announced that it has decided to maintain its two-tier system for the 2022-23 school year. LVISD said although there is not a substantial change to start and end times, secondary start and end times will be pushed back by 10 minutes to give buses time to run their second routes.
Start and end times for 2022-23 will be as follows:
- Lago Vista Elementary School: 7:45 a.m. - 3:20 p.m.
- Lago Vista Intermediate School: 7:40 a.m. - 3:15 p.m.
- Lago Vista Middle School: 8:40 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.
- Lago Vista High School: 8:40 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.
The district also noted that bus routes will be at or near capacity with three riders per seat. Bus routes will also be longer because of LVISD's topography, the increased area routes will need to cover due to the driver shortage and increased ridership and consolidated routes.
LVISD said "the topography of our school district requires door-to-door service in many areas, which can mean as many as 50-60 individual stops per route," and it expects that some students will have a longer bus ride than normal due to earlier pick up times and later drop off times.
On Aug. 10, the district raised the sign-on bonus for qualified drivers who have the credentials to be ready to drive right away from $3,000 to $5,000 because of the great need.
"So, this is my 10th year here," Lofton-Bullis said. "And we haven't dealt with any shortages of this nature."
LVISD still needed three more bus drivers to be hired as of Aug. 10. For some bigger districts, that may not sound like a lot. But in Lago Vista, that means it is down 30% of its fleet.
Following the first week of school, LVISD said on Aug. 19 that it is still down three drivers and is borrowing drivers from other districts until new hires are fully trained and licensed. With the shortage, the district said parents should expect routes to be 30 to 45 minutes late for the next few weeks.
In order to be efficient, the district said buses will not wait for students during morning pickup. The district is asking parents to refrain from calling unless a child has not been picked up so that the dispatch worker can focus on helping visiting drivers navigate unmarked roads.
"Parents, we have tried to be transparent about our bus transportation challenges. We understand your frustration and can only pledge to continue to do our best. Your patience and understanding are invaluable at this time," Superintendent Darren Webb said in the Aug. 19 letter.
The district also said it would work with Goldstar to add additional routes as soon as new drivers are prepared.
If you or someone you know would like to apply to become a bus driver for LVISD, you can begin the application process online. Starting pay is $19.60 per hour, training is provided and there is a $5,000 signing bonus for qualified applicants with prior experience.
LVISD students return to school on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Britny Eubank on social media: Twitter
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