MILWAUKEE — Amber Henzig sends both of her kids to Maryland Avenue Montessori School. But she says ever since the holiday break her children haven't stepped foot on a bus.
"I have not had bus transportation for my kids consistently since January. Right before Christmas, they had a bus every single day. They had a fantastic bus driver," said Henzig.
Henzig says she usually finds out via text that her kids aren't getting picked up.
"It's every single morning around 6:30 I get a text message the buses are not staffed today. 'Please find a way to get your kids to school.' It leaves parents and schools with no options. We don't know what to do," said Henzig.
At the beginning of the school year, the Milwaukee Public School District said it was 80 drivers short. Lamers bus lines, which has a contract with the district, said back in September that it was operating with just 70 drivers. That's down from a full staff of 120 drivers.
Henzig says without a school bus, she uses a city bus to drop and pick up her kids.
TMJ4 news reached out to Lamers about Henzig's concerns. They say since the beginning of the year three drivers have quit this specific route. And while the entire route hasn't been canceled, Lamers acknowledges there have been weeks the bus has not run due to no driver being available:
"We're still facing significant driver shortages and have had 3 people quit this route so far this year. Nationwide school bus driver shortages are still a big concern. And when a current driver doesn't show up for a day, or quits entirely, we don't have that safety net of drivers in place that we may have had before the pandemic to quickly put a sub on the route for the day or week.
When a route is late or cancelled, MPS notifies parents and guardians. So if a parent hasn't been notified about the bus, they should verify their email address and phone number with MPS to make sure that everything is correct. In addition, if the parent called us, we would have let them know the status of the route immediately.
I also asked our routing supervisor, who said that the route has not been cancelled for the entire two months that you had referenced, but there have been weeks that it has not run due to no driver being available.
The solution is that, as an entire industry, we need more school bus drivers. In Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, and throughout the U.S. To drive a school bus, you must be 21 or older with a good driving record. School bus drivers must pass a background check, drug screen, and physical. Lamers offers $22 an hour starting, plus bonuses for safe driving and attendance totaling $2,000 each school year. Anyone interested can apply online at GoLamers.com/careers or in person at the Lamers Terminal, 1122 W. Boden Ct. in Milwaukee."
-Erica Dakins, Marketing Coordinator, Lamers Bus Lines Inc.,
"In the summer we were talking about shortages. It's now February. Why has there been no action?" asked Henzig.
To that point, Lamers says it is offering bonuses and a starting pay of $22 an hour, but says it's still not enough to fill a safety net of drivers who can fill in when someone quits or doesn't show up for a shift.
Henzig says no matter the reason, something has to be done to fix the problem.
"This has to be solved for the next school year. This has to be solved now. But for sure for next school year," said Henzig