More than 2,000 Chicago Public Schools students and their families faced a major disruption as the school year began Monday - the absence of reliable and expected transportation following a mass resignation of bus drivers.
Approximately 10% of bus drivers contracted to work for the district resigned the week of Aug. 23, a sharp increase driven by COVID-19 vaccination requirements, CPS previously said in a statement. On Friday, 73 drivers alone submitted their resignations.
Speaking at an event to ring in new school year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said there's a "very solid plan" in place to address the shortage, emphasizing the lack of drivers is not CPS' fault.
"It was only Friday that the notification came from those third parties that they had a shortage of drivers," the mayor said. "That is not CPS' responsibility. We have a contract with those companies. We had an expectation that they were going to fulfill their contract. They told us at the last minute... that didn't happen."
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CPS is offering affected families stipends of $1,000 for the first two weeks and $500 the following months. The city is also exploring the possibility of creating partnerships with rideshare companies, such as Uber or Lyft, to offer transportation for students when buses aren't available.
"We're going to work through these kinks," Lightfoot commented. "You're going to find individuals for whom this wasn't a great start, but we're going to work hard to make sure that we saw those and address those problems."
The bus driver shortage isn't solely a Chicago problem, but one impacting districts across Illinois and the country. Some schools are even being forced to tier bus schedules, with buses making multiple rounds in just one morning to prevent overcrowding.