‘We could not absorb all of this’: JCPS cancels more than 100 bus routes after dozens of drivers call out

Absences will be excused for students who have to miss school because of the amount of bus drivers who have called out for Monday.
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 1:29 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - More than 140 Jefferson County Public School bus drivers called out on Monday, causing the district to cancel over 100 bus routes.

JCPS sent a notice to families and media on Sunday after confirming 85 call-outs from drivers for Monday.

“I will say, 75% of our drivers, more than 400 of them are at work today doing what’s best for kids and safely transporting our kids to and from school today,” JCPS spokeswoman Carolyn Callahan said. “And we so appreciate them. Bus drivers have been the heroes of this entire thing and have been working extremely hard all school year as they do every school year, and we are so appreciative of the more than 400 bus drivers who chose to come to work today.”

Callahan said similar to this morning, there will be delays and cancellations this afternoon when students leave school to go home. The district however is in communication with families of students about these details.

“Bus drivers drive different students in the morning than they do in the afternoon,” Callahan said. “So that means there will be students who didn’t have a ride to school might have a ride home from school, but those who had a ride to school might not have a ride home because bus drivers are driving different students in the morning and the afternoon.”

Callahan said this impacts the entire day and that these cancellations are spread throughout the district.

JCPS transports more than 65,000 students a day. Callahan said this is the first time the district has had to cancel bus routes.

“Typically we delay them,” she said. “We could not absorb all of this today.”

Callahan said some bus drivers are attempting to pick up other additional routes amid the callouts. On average, around 40 or so bus drivers will call out, according to Callahan.

“This, with more than 100, towards 140 bus drivers out, that is not something we can ask our bus drivers to do,” Callahan said. “It’s not even feasible to be able to say okay go do your routes and then pick up all these additional routes as well. So yeah, this is the first time I will say other districts cancel bus routes all the time. It’s just not something JCPS has ever wanted to do because we want to bring our students to school. There is nothing more important to us than having our students safely in the classroom. But we could not do that today because of the choice of several bus drivers to call out sick.”

There is no indication at this time of whether the callouts will continue.

“Our students need to be in school,” Callahan said. “We are in a chronic absenteeism crisis. Any day that our students are missing is a day that takes them away from the success that they’re gaining in the classroom, from the experiences that they’re gaining. When students miss school, they miss more meals. When students miss school, they miss being able to go see a school nurse for something that they need to take care of. When kids miss school, they miss educational moments and we do not want this.”

The district says they are aware of rumors that the excessive callouts stem from student discipline and that they are working to change the referral process, in addition to the long routes.

This isn’t a union effort, but Teamsters Local 783 President John Stovall, who represents JCPS bus drivers, said Monday he’s heard the complaints.

“[Drivers] are tired of being cussed out. They’re tired of being threatened by parents,” said Stovall. “They’re tired of having private citizens pull up in front of the bus because some kid yelled at them at a red light.”

WAVE News asked Stovall if he felt the district was receptive to driver’s concerns.

“I think the past month they’ve been more receptive than they have been in years,” said Stovall. “They know it’s a problem. They’re trying to address it, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

JCPS believes something similar.

“These are not things that can be done just in the school year,” said Callahan. “This is going to take time.”

As for Monday afternoon, Callahan said staff will be staying at the school and calling families as more information and updates become available.

“This is an unfortunate situation,” she said. “Parents are going to have to find a way to pick they’re children up from school if that is the case. Our hands are tied. If we do not have the drivers to drive the buses, we cannot transport kids.”

All buses were clear by 7:10 p.m., according to Callahan.

Callahan said initial reports show that around 69,000 JCPS students were at school Monday, around 13,000 fewer than the previous Monday.

Absences were excused for students who had to miss school because of the amount of bus drivers who had called out.