Lack of bus drivers places science teacher Wier behind the wheel


Courtesy of Joe Wier

To entertain Geo-Science students on the one and a half hour long bus drive, science teacher Joe Wier brings a speaker for a Karaoke competition. Wier has filled in as field trip bus driver multiple times over the school year.

Maddy Cox, News Digital Content Editor

In previous years, planning field trips was difficult due to the lack of subs to cover classes, while that issue still remains, it has been moved to the back burner as a more prevalent obstacle presents itself: bus driver shortages.

Although bus driver shortages have occurred for many years, especially following the 2019-2020 school year, they have become an even larger issue that has cut down bus routes, prevented field trips and even put teachers behind the wheel.

Science teacher Joe Wier has gone to great lengths to ensure his students can go on this field trip whenever possible, even if it means driving the bus himself.

“Three years ago I got certified to be a bus driver, which luckily allowed me the ability to [drive the bus] last year,” Wier said.

Wier’s class managed to get a bus driver for their trip April 12, but there were still struggles caused by the shortage.

Typically, the Geo-Science class makes three stops, one at the Silver Mines, another at Johnson Shut-ins and the last at Elephant Rocks state park.

The class was unable to make it to Elephant Rocks this year because while they managed to get a driver, time constraints with bus routes caused the field trip to be cut down to only two stops. 

“It’s amazing to be able to go on school field trips again,” Wier said. “This is one of the few times we can get up close and personal with the things we’ve studied.”

Although Wier’s class managed to get a bus for their field trip, many other activities have struggled to do so. With a lack of certified bus drivers, it’s easier for the school to find a sub for Wier’s science class than it is to find another driver.

“There have been at least three times that I’ve had to be pulled from something to go drive the bus because there is such a shortage of drivers,” Wier said, “Typically I drive sports trips after school, I’ve driven maybe 15 [sports trips] this year, maybe more.”

Currently, in Rockwood, there are seven teachers that are certified to operate buses, however, Wier was the first staff member within the district to do so.

“This week there was an emergency because the band was playing with the Mizzou band and they could only find one driver,” Wier said. “[Administrators] asked me to leave about 30 minutes prior to the end [of school] and they got me a sub so I could drive [the band] to Columbia.”

Geo-Science student, Senior Reece Ruppert, hadn’t been on any high school field trips due to COVID-19 until April.

“I thought the field trip was fun, it was great to be outside and see things you normally wouldn’t see in a school day,” Ruppert said.

Some students, however, have missed out on more celebratory field trips such as the big 8th Grade field trips from middle school.

Fashion Design and Merchandising, another class that has resumed field trips, has students with those experiences.

“We had one [8th grade field trip] at the beginning of the year, and then we were going to go to Six Flags at the end of the year and we couldn’t go. I was really upset about it because it was such a big deal,” Kailyn Politte said. “I remember all the other grades were hyping the trips up in 8th grade and everyone was talking about how fun they were. But when COVID happened, everything just got canceled.”

Fortunately, since then Politte has been able to resume attending field trips and hopes that she will be able to continue to do so.

“I like getting to go out and do things, it changes it up a little bit and makes school more exciting and hands-on. I hope that senior year I can do more field trips like this,” Politte said.

Lafayette field trip policies continue to change but due to the developing novelty of this issue, it can be difficult for administration to problem-solve.

“[We have to] problem solve every day, one day at a time,” Activities Director Jonathan Sumner said.

The only major changes to the field trip policy so far are: the administration has more control over the planning process, and as often as possible, the school tries to keep field trips from being planned on Fridays due to it being the day with the least available subs and the most teacher absences.

Previously, almost the entire planning process of field trips was up to teachers and their departments, administration was only involved for final approval. Due to the excessive amount of shortages that have occurred with substitutes and bus drivers, the policy was adjusted to include more “administrative oversight” according to Associate Principal Michael Franklin.

“We’ve been able to open up the school to more field trips, we still have some restrictions, but it is much better than it was,” Franklin said.