As many districts celebrate the last week of school, they also look at proactive approaches to ensure the 2022-’23 school year runs smoothly. One hurdle in particular is being addressed now: finding bus drivers.
Bus driver shortages are having a rippling effect on schools, students and families across the country - especially in Webster County. The shortage has resulted in longer routes for students and double routes for drivers. To combat the shortages, district’s have come up with several incentives and creative ways to band-aid the problem.
Marshfield’s district has responded by offering paid training and the opportunity to earn extra income before and after school. A number of teachers and paraprofessionals have taken advantage of the opportunity including Assistant Superintendent Rocky Valentine.
“I tell people all the time, it is probably my favorite thing. Getting to jump in and drive across the district, it's beautiful in our area, and working with the students is great,” explained Valentine. “But the district has consolidated some routes, resulting in our routes to be little bit longer and I know nobody enjoys that. We don't love that either, but that was not a financial decision… it’s been a limited staffing situation.”
The Marshfield district requires its drivers to span 1,300 miles every school day; with 31 routes in the morning and 32 in the afternoon. Equally so, the Fordland’s district puts on quite the balancing act as well, juggling multiple drivers throughout the day.
“Our high school secretary is running an afternoon route, our Ag teacher is running a morning route, our baseball coach drives the OTC bus in the morning and we have our bus mechanic driving the pickup OTC route,” explained Fordland Superintendent Chris Ford.
Logan-Rogersville has recruited parents to obtain their Commercial Drivers License (CDL), driving students to school functions, tournaments and games.
“We have a couple of cases where we have parents that are certified drivers,” shared Jennifer Katzin, Logan Rogersville Assistant Superintendent. “We have a father that drives soccer games and tennis matches because his kids play soccer and tennis… We've also encouraged our coaches to get their CDL.”
To ensure the 2022-’23 school year does not face the same challenges, districts are recruiting drivers now, giving plenty of time to obtain a CDL.
“This is one of those niche positions for us and it's so unique in the hours. It can be difficult finding somebody that wants to do that. It takes a special skill set to be able to do it; both driving and working with students,” said Valentine. “We are always appreciative and amazed at what our community does for the district. We are hopeful that members of our community are willing to use that skill set and help the district. This is definitely an opportunity for them to help us out and succeed as a district in the upcoming school year.”
“I think people get intimidated by driving a large vehicle…but it is such an important job,” shared Katzin. “We have these plaques on some of our buses that says ‘you're carrying our most precious cargo’ and ultimately they are. You're not just driving a school bus, it's getting kids safely from point A to point B and it's a really important job. We want to make sure we have the best quality people.”
Select districts have offered paid CDL training, benefits, insurance and more. To become CDL certified in the state of Missouri, visit dor.mo.gov or contact your local district directly.
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