Districts struggling to hire school bus drivers

Districts struggling to hire school bus drivers. (WRSP)

School districts are getting ready to open school doors this month, but many are having trouble finding enough bus drivers.

A lot of people will say that every position in a school district is just as important as the next - whether it's a teacher, janitor, coach - and that includes school bus drivers.

The Ball-Chatham School District says it faces this problem every year, but this year the need is growing. They say it's hard to find people who can work a split-shift schedule, go through a thorough vetting process, and handle the responsibility of driving so many kids around in one big vehicle.

Jim Lovelace, the Director of Transportation at Ball-Chatham Community Schools, said, "If we don't have drivers to get students to school, it's really no different than if we got them to school and there was nobody to teach them."

Some of the things you need to be a school bus driver include:

passing a criminal background check (cannot be convicted of certain felonies)

getting screened for drugs and alcohol

Commercial Driver's License

Passenger Endorsement that allows you to transport a large number of passengers

must have had a driver's license for the past three consecutive years

behind-the-wheel training

eight hour class and passage of tests administered by Secretary of State's office

The Ball-Chatham School District has 45 full-time bus driver positions that start at $16 an hour. They're looking for substitute drivers (starts at $14/hour) and bus monitors, as well. Bus monitors help bus drivers manage students on the bus because the driver can't see or hear the back of the bus a lot of the time, and help with discipline issues if needed.

School bus drivers are required to get a physical every year and take annual refresher courses. It depends on the district, but many districts like Ball-Chatham will pay for those mandatory fees (CDL, annual courses, Passenger Endorsements, etc.)

Lovelace says it's much more than just driving kids to and from school every day. Bus drivers have the opportunities to form relationships with the kids, drive them on field trips, take athletic teams to games and more.

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