Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

School Bus Drivers in High Demand across St. Louis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

School Bus Drivers in High Demand across St. Louis

Article excerpt

WILDWOOD -- Now hiring: Anyone who likes kids and likes to drive, preferably at the same time.

Two months into the school year, St. Louis is experiencing a bus driver shortage. Parents report delays and crowded conditions on buses, while school districts are offering bonuses and turning to staff members to fill the gaps.

The Rockwood School District just announced a $1,000 signing bonus for new, qualified school bus drivers. The district could use another 12 drivers added to the current crew of 182 to transport the 13,000 students who ride the bus to school, said Mike Heyman, Rockwood's transportation director, at the district's "bus barn" behind Pond Elementary School.

"You have to be dependable and develop trust with parents and kids," Heyman said.

School bus driver shortages are cyclical. When the economy is good, fewer people are looking for jobs. The split shifts, typically 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., are most conducive to retirees or stay-at-home parents. About 60% of Rockwood's drivers are retirees, Heyman said.

New drivers in Rockwood make nearly $17 an hour and can reach $25 an hour after five years. They can also pick up extra shifts driving to field trips, athletic events and summer school.

Some days, mechanics and dispatchers drive buses because the district is down to six substitute drivers from 15 last year. The district is also working on a plan to train administrators, teachers and coaches to drive after their day shifts.

The Missouri United School Insurance Council program issued a reminder last March about qualifications for drivers because "in the climate of reduced budgets and a shortage of bus drivers, districts are looking for innovative methods to transport students."

School bus drivers in the state must be 21 and carry a commercial driver license with an "S" endorsement that includes a written test. The drivers must pass background checks and undergo annual physicals. They receive eight hours of training each year, among other requirements. …

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