Finding bus drivers is proving to be less of a test for Marion County school districts this upcoming school year.
Some districts relied on other staff, including teachers, last school year to help fill the gap for routes.
“All of our drivers are returning this year, so we are in great shape,” Centre superintendent Larry Geist said.
That’s a big relief, he said.
The district has four route drivers and two who take vo-tech students to classes in Hillsboro.
Justin Wasmuth, superintendent for Marion-Florence schools, said that district had enough drivers for the year.
Antoinette Root, superintendent at Peabody-Burns schools, said that district would pay for qualified candidates to get their licenses.
“For us, we have not had any applicants in the last two years,” Root said.
The job is important, Root and other superintendents said.
“Our bus drivers are a critical part of our team,” Hillsboro superintendent Clint Corby said. “They are the first person who our students see each day. Their interaction can set the tone for the entire day. We are fortunate to have caring bus drivers who want the best for our students.
“Being a bus driver is not easy, but I do think it is extremely rewarding. I would encourage people to consider bus driving as a way to contribute to our communities.”
Hillsboro raised its driver pay from $13.70 to $17.65 an hour and is offering paid health insurance for employees.
It also will pay for prospective drivers’ training.
“We have recently had a few applicants, which we are excited about,” Corby said. “We are in the process of training them right now. We went through all of last year without being able to hire a bus driver for our openings.
“Our people stepped up and did a great job filling in, but we are excited about the opportunity to have a full team.”