Many Metro Detroit schools are kicking off the academic year this week, and operations will look different for many -- and not just because of COVID-related protocols.
Across Metro Detroit and the U.S., schools are facing a massive shortage of support workers like bus drivers, food service workers and custodians.
Some local school districts have adjusted their transportation routes to account for fewer bus drivers, which has also triggered some changes in school start times each day. Other districts, like Melvindale and Allen Park, have suspended some transportation services altogether due to staff shortages.
More: Some Metro Detroit school districts suspending bus routes due to shortage of drivers
Bus driver shortages aren’t new to U.S. school districts, but experts say the issue is at a breaking point nationwide due to a labor shortage and the coronavirus pandemic’s lingering effects.
And schools aren’t only lacking bus drivers, they’re also seeking other support staff like food service workers, custodians and ParaPros.
In Troy, Superintendent Richard Machesky says the biggest need for their district is custodians. He says the district is temporarily paying overtime and adjusting schedules to maintain normal day-to-day operations, but that plan won’t last long.
Related: Plymouth-Canton Community Schools faces school bus driver shortage, some routes suspended
At Utica Community Schools (UCS), some support staff are working more than one position throughout the day to help fill the gaps, according to Bill Holbrook, assistant superintendent of business and employee services.
Districts are being forced to get creative to keep their buildings up and running as many students return to in-person learning for the first time since the pandemic struck. UCS held a job fair that proved fruitful, but many say the real challenge is showing people how important support staff positions really are at K-12 schools.
See the full report in the video above.
More: Bus driver shortages are latest challenge hitting US schools