Local schools face bus driver shortage

Local schools face bus driver shortage
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - As the school year approaches, two local school districts are in need of school bus drivers.

Bushland ISD Director of Planned Operations and Transportation Paul Dees said their biggest fear is not having enough drivers to take children to and from school.

"It would be horrible, that's why we do everything we can not to do it," said Dees. "I mean, there would be kids that did not come to school if I couldn't run some of the buses."

Dees said the pay rate for the part-time job and the location of the school doesn't help when trying to attract drivers.

"We're outside of the city, so we're asking people to drive to Bushland twice a day, and my average driver's commute is 20 miles," said Dees. "So, you talk about 80 miles to go to a part time job twice a day."

He went on to say the image of bus drivers also sheds a negative light.

"Old movies when you have a school bus driver, you have a grumpy old man that doesn't look like he enjoys what he's doing," said Dees. "That's a perception from the public that school bus drivers aren't on the same professional drivers status as everyone else."

River Road ISD's Assistant Superintendent of Operations Andy Nies said the environment of the bus can also turn potential employees away.

He said the schedule seems to be the universal factor for why schools can't keep drivers.

"It's not a normal part-time job," said Nies. "You don't come in, work four hours and then leave."

He went on to say the schedule breaks up your day in an awkward way.

"You have to have the type of schedule that would allow you to be at work early in the morning... 5:30, 6 o'clock in the morning and then be done at 8:00," said Nies. "Then start that back up again at 2 o'clock in the afternoon."

There are also many steps you have to take in order to become a bus driver.

"The law requires them to have a Class B Commercial Driver's License with a passenger and a school bus endorsement," said Nies. "The law requires them to pass a Department of Transportation physical every year. The state requires 20 hours of classroom instruction for any bus driver and then a refresher course every then years."

They're also required to have a clean criminal record and background check by the school. While it may seem extensive, Nies said it's all an effort to keep students safe.

"They're driving these buses, these have our kids in them, and our student safety is the most important thing to us," said Nies. "When they're in the vehicle with the students, you know it's so important to have good quality people driving the bus like we do."

If you're interested in becoming a driver at River Road ISD, click here.

If you're interested in becoming a driver at Bushland ISD, click here.

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