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A free summer seminar for experienced high school journalism advisers

From the 23 teachers who attended this workshop in July 2019, we have included Solutions Journalism Story Ideas, other Story Ideas for a whole range of topics and Tech Examples of something they learned, many of these for data visualization, plus some resources anyone can use in the future for these topics.

SoJo Idea: Bus driver shortage plagues district

Solutions-based story idea

STORY: The district struggles to hire and retain qualified bus drivers, leading to drivers having to drive double or triple routes, students to being very early or very late to school, and too much turnover, which makes training costly. Shortages are caused by the relatively high requirements (special license) and low pay, often without benefits.

RESPONSE: Some districts (ours included) have tried aggressive recruiting strategies and staggered school start times so drivers can do more routes. Other districts are trying more creative approaches to the problem. Some have incentivized completing the training for the specialized license with bonuses. Others have recruited and trained teachers to fill the positions for additional pay. In one community, the district has targeted retirees and sta-at-home parents.

EVIDENCE: Evidence of impact would be a reduction in turnover of bus drivers. The student reporter should look for examples of both short and long term solutions.

INSIGHTS: Solutions may vary based on location. Small towns, for example, may have solutions that would not work in larger metropolitan areas. The hope would be to find a solution that was scalable to meet the needs of our district.

LIMITATIONS: Of the examples I was able to find, there are several limitations. The first and largest is funding. Several sources agree that if the position was full time year round with benefits, there probably would not be a shortage of bus drivers. Several districts have tried to meet those needs, which of course costs money. Other solutions and quick fixes create new problems, like teacher drivers. That solution requires training for the teachers. The proposal to have drivers do more routes addresses the shortage issue but creates new problems with long wait times for students and very different start times for schools.


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