Colorado boy, 12, kayaks to school to sidestep bus driver shortage

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. — A resourceful middle school student in Colorado had no intentions of allowing a nationwide bus driver shortage to interfere with his education.

“I’m always looking for new adventures, and I’m always trying to do cool stuff that I’ll remember,” Josh Smith, 12, told the Summit Daily.

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True to his word, the Summit Middle School student and Boy Scout hauled out the kayak he received for his birthday a few years back and headed to Dillon Reservoir at 6 a.m. on Sept. 8 with his father, Jason Smith, along for a little parental guidance from a distance.

“We put the kayak in, and it was really pretty, and I turned on my GoPro and just then the sun started to rise. So I took off, and the water was super reflective like a mirror, and then the sun started to rise, so it’s really pretty,” Josh Smith told the newspaper.

Jason Smith told KDVR that sometimes parenting is about letting go, which is why he agreed to allow his son to paddle to school rather than insist on the five-mile car ride to school.

“The easy answer would have been, ‘No, let me just drive you to school. If you can’t get on the bus, we’ll drive you to school, no problem,” the elder Smith told the TV station.

“But I have a 12-year-old who wants to be adventurous, wants to do something none of his buddies would do, and how can I say no to that?” he added.

According to NPR, a recent survey indicated that half of student-transportation coordinators nationwide characterized their system-specific bus driver shortages as “severe” or “desperate.”

Curt Macysyn, executive director of the National School Transportation Association, called the shortages unprecedented.

“This back-to-school period is nothing like the previous periods we’ve seen,” Macysyn, whose organization conducted the survey alongside two other trade associations, told NPR. “In previous years, we’ve seen regionalized driver shortages, but nothing to the extent that we’re seeing today.”

Josh Smith, who hopes to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout and potentially enroll in the U.S. Air Force Academy, told KDVR that the outing was a bit unnerving at moments, but more than worth it.

“I was nervous when I started to go out a little more, and I realized how vast it was, and how far away I was from land,” he told the TV station.

“When I got (to school), I felt like I was accomplished, but I also knew I was a little bit late to school, so I think I could have made a little bit better time,” he added.