Amid shortage, school division seeks bus drivers
Published 9:57 pm Monday, November 11, 2019
Amid a shortage in bus drivers causing students to be late to and from school, Suffolk Public Schools will be holding a job fair for bus drivers Saturday at King’s Fork Middle School.
The job fair will take place from 9 a.m. until noon, and will coincide with the school division’s College and Career Readiness Fair, to be held from 8 a.m. to noon at the same location.
Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III said the school division has been reviewing data on lost instructional time and has added bus monitors to some buses while also providing snacks to students in the afternoon. He has also stated that he wants to prevent current drivers from getting burned out by making too many runs, but he noted that the pool of drivers is not deep enough.
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“We’ve got to really work on our enrichment mediation plans, because there has been some lost instructional time,” Gordon said. “And this is something that I have a little bit of experience in, so I’ve been working very closely with Ms. (Beverly) Young, our director of transportation, and Dr. (Suzanne) Rice, our assistant superintendent of student services. We really need to have a solution in place pretty soon. That’s our goal.”
Gordon noted that on one day last month, the division was short by 19 drivers that caused extra delays in getting children to and from school.
The school division has been using supervisors and trainers to drive routes to alleviate the shortage, and it has already hired five new drivers that are expected to be on board this month.
In an effort to bring in more drivers, the school division is touting free training to earn the necessary commercial driver’s license, flexible hours, not having to work on school holidays, an incentive of up to $1,000 and a retirement plan.
To drive a school bus, people must have a high school diploma or equivalent, be 19 or older, have at least three years of driving experience and an acceptable driving record.
The pay for substitute bus drivers is $11.20 per hour, while the contract rate is $12.80 per hour.
The school division will also be taking applications for bus aides.
Applications can be completed at the job fair and are available at www.spsk12.net/employment. Division staff will be on hand to answer any questions.
Gordon said at the recent Meet the Superintendent forums that he planned to address the shortage in drivers, noting that it was resulting in lost class time for students.
“I’m just really concerned about loss of instructional time … (and) the arrival time of kids at home,” Gordon said. “Those are the two things I’m looking at.”
The division, he said, is looking at arrival times, dismissal times, counting the number of kids on each bus, and which buses are making double runs.
“I’m still going to have double runs,” Gordon said “We just don’t have enough drivers yet. But how can I minimize that first run so that the second run is coming back and starting earlier? That’s what we’re working on.”
He said Suffolk’s large land area plays a big role in the issues facing the division’s transportation.
“It plays a huge challenge in that,” Gordon said. “You try to balance the kids that are in our specialty programs with the geography of the city, with the overall total number of drivers that we have available.”
The College and Career Readiness Fair will take place Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until noon at King’s Fork Middle School, with registration beginning at 7:30 a.m. The program is designed for middle and high school students, and their parents. Colleges, training institutes and military representatives will be on hand, as well as local businesses. There will also be workshops on Creating Your High School Path and Planning for College and Careers. They will run from 8:30 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. Reservations can be made at http://bit.ly/SPS-CCRF-Nov-2019 and are encouraged, but walk-in participation is allowed.