As you’ve likely already heard, and perhaps experienced, districts have been struggling with bus staff shortages this school year. Nationwide, schools are actively working to recruit more bus drivers through various methods, like increasing their pay. Other districts, however, are facing a trickier problem, according to a report from District Administration.

Over the past couple of weeks, several school districts have reported being targeted by thieves after discovering that their buses’ catalytic converters were stolen overnight. Catalytic converter theft has steadily increased nationwide, especially among larger vehicles since they contain larger amounts of highly sought-after metals. Repairs can cost districts several thousands of dollars, depending on the number of converters stolen.

In Oshkosh, Wisconsin, bus routes were recently disrupted for two days in a row due to theft. Parents were told they had to find an alternative option to get their kids to and from school.

According to the sheriff’s office in the area, a total of 35 converters were stolen in the course of two nights, and two buses were further damaged.

The district used buses from schools that weren’t currently in session to bridge the gap after a few days, and staff is working to repair the affected buses, but timing for returning to a full fleet is still up in the air.

Little Axe Public Schools in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, faced a similar situation just days before the start of their school year in August. Four converters were stolen, according to Superintendent Jay Thomas. Two belonged to work cars and the other two belonged to buses for students with special needs.

And in mid-September in Burlington County, New Jersey, police were on the lookout for the suspects who stole nine converters from school buses. Dedicated transportation team workers spent most of a weekend fixing the buses to avoid disruptions for students.

With catalytic converter theft becoming a trend for school bus fleets, it’s a good time to review your district’s bus security systems and alert transportation staff.