OSWEGO, Ill. - Scores of school buses sat empty in southwest suburban Oswego on Tuesday, as thousands of students couldn’t go to school because of a shortage of school bus drivers.
It’s a problem impacting many school districts around the Chicago area. But in this case, it appears the driver shortage was intentional.
"Our high schooler's at home right now and he wasn’t able to go to school this morning," complained one Oswego mother.
Both parents and students expressed frustration after a third of District 308’s school bus drivers called in sick this morning. That forced school officials to close the district’s five middle schools and two high schools and instead have thousands of students do remote learning from home over their laptops.
"Very early this morning we received information that roughly 50 monitors and drivers were out," said District 308 Spokesperson Theresa Komitas. "So that impacted our ability to run our normal transportation routes."
Like other districts, Oswego has been struggling to find enough school bus drivers.
But because of the huge jump in sick calls on Tuesday, the district believes it was likely a planned work stoppage by the driver’s union because of new policies requiring COVID testing and vaccinations.
Whatever the reason, it was a last minute hassle no one wanted.
"So it negatively impacted us because we’re just getting back into the swing of things after our children were allowed back in school," said parent Ryan Lind. "So hopefully this won’t be a problem that’s going to persist more than a few days, we’re worried about that."
The bus driver’s union did not return FOX 32's calls, but drivers we spoke with informally say there is a lot of frustration about working longer hours and driving more routes to cover for the shortage.
"At this time, our senior leadership is meeting and coming up with different scenarios of how we could work to maintain in-person education for all of our students given the shortage of drivers that we have," said Komitas.
There were enough drivers to get elementary school students to school, although those buses were running way behind schedule.