This post was originally published on The Washington Informer

By Richard D. Elliott

While the fresh school year for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has commenced for students and staff, issues with bus service have unfortunately persisted. The school system revealed it is understaffed by 213 bus drivers and 217 bus routes don’t have assigned drivers.

A special needs student had to wait for hours at the bus stop, before her mother took her to school herself. 

Darío López-Capera reported an incident to Telemundo where a Pre-k student mistakenly got off at the wrong bus stop. López-Capera had to call the boy’s mother to come pick up the child. 

These incidents are leaving parents worried about whether their children will make it to or from school on time. 

County Council member Edward Burroughs (D-District 8) wants to audit the PGCPS bus system and fix the issue for good. This issue dates back to at least 2021, when then-PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson sent out a letter to parents apologizing for the chronic bus issue.

“It is completely unacceptable to have the persistent issue we’ve had for over a decade,” said Burroughs, chair of the Council’s Education Committee. “Immediately we need to either bring someone in to audit the system, look at best practices, [and] learn from what neighboring jurisdictions are doing. What the community should expect is a concrete plan to bring us forward. We need better pay for our bus drivers, better recruiting, better retention.”

**FILE** Prince George's County Council member Edward P. Burroughs (D-Md.-District 8) (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Prince George’s County Council member Edward P. Burroughs (D-Md.-District 8) Photograph courtesy of Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer.

Prince George’s County Public Schools said that despite the fact there is a “national bus driver shortage,” the system is “committed to safe, on-time arrivals and departures,” for students.  

“We are currently at an 83% fill rate for bus drivers. Even with our very best efforts, delays should be expected. We are asking for patience during the first few weeks of school as drivers become acclimated to routes and increased traffic within the county,” PGCPS said in a statement, before sharing plans to address the problem.

“The school system will be making daily adjustments along with the doubling of runs to address and fill gaps. We will do our best to minimize wait times and communicate delays at the school level when possible,” continued the system’s statement. “Parents can use the StopFinder app to track the location of the child’s bus. We are also working on an email and text message notification system.”

The school system also said parents have a role to play. 

“Parents are expected to accompany preschool and kindergarten students to and from bus stops,” stated PGCPS. “When preschool or kindergarten students are not met at the bus stop by a parent, neighbor, sibling or other caretaker, or when a situation appears to be unsafe, policy is for the bus driver to return the student to school.”

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said she chose House II to lead PGCPS based on his record of fixing issues like the bus driver shortage, and she is confident in his ability to fix the challenges. 

Bus driver fairs were held this past July and last year, each with strong turnouts. Over 100 people signed up for the July job fair, and the 2022 fair literally had a line out the door.

Teacher Shortage Adds to Challenges

There is also a reported teacher shortage in the County. While Superintendent II reported roughly 1,000 vacancies across the school system in early August, WJLA News found over 2,000 vacancies at that time. 

PGCEA President Dr. Donna Christy reported a large number of vacancies as well. A poll conducted by GBAO, a Democratic polling firm, showed that 44% of teachers were working a second job and that half of Black teachers work a second job.

“One, it creates an unsafe environment because you don’t have enough adults supervising,” said Christy when asked about the negatives of the ongoing teacher shortage. “It also creates a massive amount of workload because all of the employees that are here have to cover the vacancies, and because they burn out faster, they leave, driving that number up.”

For info on which buses remain without drivers, click here.

The post PGCPS Understaffed by Over 200 Bus Drivers and Teachers, Leaving Students at Risk appeared first on The Washington Informer.