The Struggle is Real at the ASD Transportation Department


Chelsea Doolan

Bente Doolan walks around her bus at the end of her route.

Since 2019, there has been a shortage of driver staff in the transportation department. With the two different release times for the elementary, middle, and high school, ASD has developed two different bus schedules to match. The split schedule was first implemented as a Covid-19 precaution to prioritize social distancing when school was first back in person.

Reghan Mahaffey, who became the head of the transportation department in 2019, wanted to lower the number of students on the buses during Covid, which is what started the split schedule. The reason this split release time has stayed is actually because of the shortage.

“It’s becoming very spread thin within the department where everyone’s trying to cover all the necessary components,” said Mahaffey

Not only has the transportation department lost 9+ drivers and staff since Covid, but the process to become a driver for the school district is long. Driver trainer, Bente Doolan, shared that it takes around 100 to 125 hours for a new driver to get their CDL. Additionally, it takes another 10 to 15 hours for these drivers to learn everything specific to the Aspen Transportation Department bus driving. These can be a cause for fewer to no applications.

“In regards to the shortage, it makes it very difficult for any of us to get any time off,” Doolan says.

While the shortage has affected the transportation department, it has also extended to the families of our community. Families with kids in both schedules have had trouble with the younger kids getting out before their older siblings. These younger kids often can’t be home on their own yet or their parents don’t want them to. It also affects kids’ after-school schedules including sports and work. This situation can put a lot of stress on the parents and guardians of the kids. Sarah Ward, a teacher and parent in the Aspen School District, shared her thoughts on the Split schedule from a parent’s perspective.

“I feel we need to figure out how to get our district back on one schedule so that we can better support teachers and students and parents with release times, if anything.” Ward said.

Mahaffey said that drivers are currently working anywhere from 50 to 65 hours and 6 to 7 days a week. That usually includes routes, trips for sports, field trips, Ex Eds, etc. Because they only have around 10 drivers currently, the staff is often driving on weekends or holidays in addition to their regular hours. At this point, almost the whole staff needs to be driving, otherwise they won’t have enough people to cover everything.

“My biggest concern with the shortage is honestly burnout, because we are asking so much of our drivers and of the employees, and of our mechanics.” Mahaffey says.