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WKBW 7 News Buffalo

One district's solution to the school bus driver shortage is now in motion

By Lia Lando,


A possible solution to the school bus driver shortage is now in motion in one Western New York district.

City schools in Niagara Falls have adjusted their start times. First period now begins 10 minutes earlier.

Doors open for students at 7:30 at Niagara Falls High School. Their first period is at 8:05.

Niagara Falls Superintendent Mark Laurrie says there are numerous reasons more people aren't getting in line to become bus drivers.

He says many can't pass the marijuana drug test, it's a difficult job, there's a lot of competition from companies offering work-from-home positions and many drivers are opting for a career delivering packages instead of the demanding job of caring for children.

Laurie also says, "it was usually a job often taken by retirees and retirees are still skeptical about being around a lot of kids and I think that's with respect to their health."

The Niagara Falls District has adjusted to the shortage with staggered start times, but could this be the solution for other districts?

7 News spoke with officials and a Buffalo parent about efforts to adjust the start times in the Buffalo City School District as well.

Niagara Falls superintendent Mark Laurie says staggered start times in his district appear to be the new normal.

"Our staggered start time really goes against what research says for high school students and that is to start them later."

He says the earlier start time, "has resulted in probably a few more tardies than I would like and missed buses" but overall seems to be working well.

High School Principal Cheryl Vilardo says for the most part, the new schedule is working but admits, "in general teenagers don't love getting up. The whole system that we have is a little bit flawed."

The doors open for students at 7:30 and first period at Niagra Falls High School is at 8:05.

Vilardo says it's an improvement from last year when students were dealing with long wait times after school.... which often resulted in irritated kids and sometimes fighting.

While things are running smoothly in Niagara Falls, Sam Radford Director of CAO We the parents say thousands of students are being left behind in the Buffalo School District, and "as of right now, we are in the same position as this time last year....29 thousand kids out of the 32 thousand don't have access to those after school programs. You don't get to go to after-school like your friends. You don't get to go to modified sports and play with kids from other schools like everybody else in Western New York. You don't get to go on all the field trips. Here's what the frustration part is, Lia: we can solve this."

He says a three-bell system would solve the problem in Buffalo, but contract negotiations are standing in the way.

"The Buffalo Teachers Federation backed out of the agreement so we're back to where we started. What they said at the meeting was that the teachers...the hold up for them is they wanted to include retiree health care."

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