Bus Driver Shortage Restricts Field Trips

Tyler Moore, Managing Editor

With COVID-19 restrictions fading away from school life, many students and teachers have been excited to be able to resume taking field trips. North students and staff are hoping to finally return to making their traditional field trips as well as exploring new options; however, a continuing bus driver shortage has gotten in the way of these plans.

Stanley Niemiec, Assistant Principal of Instructional Programs, oversees all academic field trips at North.

“A teacher will fill out a form called a field trip proposal form,” said Niemiec. “I’ll review what that field trip is about, if it fits into your scope and sequence of your class. We want you to hit learning targets and have an experience that really you couldn’t do inside the classroom.”

Niemiec also has to take into account transportation to and from the field trip.

“We have our buses, and we have to be able to get everybody there and back within our time parameters that are set up,” said Niemiec.

A nationwide bus driver shortage which started during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused transportation restrictions at North, especially when it comes to field trips. Fewer bus drivers means that field trips often must be limited to when bus drivers are not making other routes.

Before COVID-19, AP Biology students would normally make a day-long trip to the Field Museum during November.

“It’s a pretty cool trip because we see actual scientists and they take us behind the scenes into their offices or into their laboratories to show what they do both in terms of actual science and then also, for some of them, it might have to do with preparation of specimens for the museum,” said Jim Lotarski, AP Biology teacher.

According to Lotarski, the field trip usually has a two-hour bus ride there and an hour and a half back, but transportation restrictions related to the shortage meant that this would be impossible.

The bus driver shortage started by COVID has decreased the frequency of field trips. (Lynn Singh)

“Because there’s not enough bus drivers, they couldn’t allow for a driver to be [at the Field Museum] just waiting and then coming back,” said Lotarski. “That driver needed to run routes in the morning and afternoon.”

With few buses available, teachers struggle to find alternative transportation.

“The students asked if we could take separate cars down there. There’s way too much liability in students driving,” said Lotarski.

Because of these constraints, AP Biology was not able to make their trip to the Field Museum. According to both Lotarski and Niemiec, field trips give students learning opportunities that they could not have inside the classroom. The bus driver shortage means that some students may miss out on these opportunities.

Fewer field trips now may also lead to field trips being harder to plan in the future.

“The big fear is that if this gets put in place for long enough, if the bus driver shortage continues, I would hate to lose my contacts down there,” said Lotarski. “People change positions and then it’s possible that kind of fades away.”