By Meredith Barack

MAYWOOD, Ill. (CBS) — Many families are feeling stressed as their children head back to school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

One thing that isn’t helping– a nationwide school bus driver shortage. CBS 2’s Meredith Barack reported Thursday on Maywood, just one community feeling the impact.

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Many families rely on the school bus to get their kids to and from school safely. But with so few school bus drivers, it’s not just causing delays for students, but headaches for school districts.

“The buses are running a little late, there is a challenge out there and we’re not the only ones.”

It was a letter from School District 89 Superintendent Dr. David Negron asking for parents to be understanding and flexible should their child’s bus show up late.

This was sent after several buses were delayed during the first three days of school. Dr. Negron pointed to the nationwide school bus driver shortage, now impacting his district and the six others that use Lakeview Bus Lines.

“This is the worst that I’ve seen in 45 years that I’ve been in business.”

Michael Wagner, CFO of Lakeview Bus Lines, said prior to the pandemic he employed, 360 people. Now it’s 240.

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“We’re short drivers. You’re trying everything you can to get people to come to work. They’re not coming to work,” Wagner said. “It’s just tough. I’ve never seen it before, very difficult. The worst conundrum.”

Lakeview has hard to miss signs posted all over its property hoping to entice people to get into the empty driver’s seats.

“You can’t even get them to come in the door for $25 an hour,” lamented Wager.

He’s also offering his current employees a $1,500 referral bonus. It’s a move similar to what other companies are doing across the country. The shortage is so extreme one Montana school district is offering a $4,000 bonus.

In the meantime, Wagner said he’s worked with all the districts to combine routes and have drivers do multiple routes as a temporary solution.

It means Dr. Negron was able to get all of his students inside their classrooms today, with only about a five minute delay.

“Knock on wood. Today was a very good day,” said a relieved Negron.

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The National Association for Pupil Transport estimates tens of thousands of drivers are needed nationwide. But even if someone is hired, it can take six to eight weeks to get their commercial driver’s license.

Meredith Barack