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News Article
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UPSD Facing Bus Driver Shortage
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Four weeks into the current school year, a driver shortage has impaired bus service in the Upper Perkiomen School District. Seven additional drivers are needed to put the bus company that has contracted with the district in a good position, according to Jennifer Malone, the district's transportation coordinator.

            Last week, Malone and Henry Sykes a terminal manager with Krise Transportation, appeared before the school board to discuss the issue. During the Sept. 23 workshop meeting at the Upper Perkiomen Middle School, she identified the district's busing challenges.

            According to Malone, the district usually needs a week or two to "get into the swing" of a new school year. However, she told the members that the district is still looking to discover that groove.

            "We're not there yet," said Malone, who added that the district faced a similar issue at the end of the last school year. "We're in better shape than most."

            The transportation director said numerous road closures, caused by torrential downpours from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, along with COVID-19 requirements to maintain detailed seating charts, have compounded the problem of a dearth of drivers. According to Malone 60 drivers, 50 of whom have a CDL license, are available to operate Krise's 62-vehicle fleet.

            A lack of drivers has forced the combination of two busloads into one, which has led to longer run times. According to Malone's presentation, some stops have been combined or eliminated, and the number of students on each bus has been maximized.

            Besides impacting the school routes, the driver shortage has affected athletics in the district. Last week, Athletic Director Robert Kurzweg rescheduled five events due to transportation constraints. According to Malone, the district has contracted with Norman's Bus Service, in Upper Hanover Township, to help alleviate that issue.

            Some district employees have volunteered to transport athletes to their games, according to Malone. She said administrators are looking two months ahead in terms of potential changes.
The driver shortage has forced the district to reject most student field trip requests during the week, according to Malone. She said some weekend requests have been accommodated.

            Some of the new fleet of buses – ordered by the bus company in February – has not yet been delivered, according to Dan Direso, the district's business administrator. He cited supply issues for the delay. Direso explained that the disruption has prevented the district from utilizing its school bus tracking app, adding that the issue should be resolved "in a couple more weeks."

            According to the transportation coordinator, the district is aggressively seeking candidates. School officials are currently advertising the job openings in local newspapers, social media, district communications, on LinkedIn and other job sites as well as on yard signs. Krise is offering new drivers a sign-on bonus, paid training, a $5 daily safety and attendance bonus, paid life insurance and dental and vision insurance, according to Malone's presentation.

According to Direso, the district is pursuing a relationship with Perkiomen Tours to see if any of their drivers are available.

            The meeting, which lasted 53 minutes, concluded without any disruptions. A dozen audience members seated in the auditorium wore face masks.

            In personnel news, the members voted to appoint one temporary professional employee. Tricia Benner will teach Family and Consumer Science at the middle school during the current year.

            The board also appointed five support staff members. The members approved Deb Benner, an existing employee, to the position of assistant kitchen manager at the high school.

            They also hired Jessica Winkler and Rebecca Carrillo as cafeteria and playground aides for the 4th and 5th Grade Center. Catherine Lejman and Christine Brock will fill similar roles at Hereford and Marlborough elementaries, respectively.

            The members approved a leave of absence for Katherine Perkins through April 18, 2022. They also granted tenure status to Stephanie Diehl.






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