Staffing Challenges Impact our Transportation Department

Despite our best efforts to maintain staffing for our bus program, we will very shortly be at a point when we need to consider alternative options regarding our transportation program due to a lack of drivers. We have had loyal and talented drivers for some time. Retirements, relocations, business opportunities, and family needs have impacted our staff and while we wish them well in the next chapters of their lives, we will struggle to provide busing for our students.

Our challenges are multifaceted. First a lack of applicants who are coming forward for the work. Second, the multiple steps required for a person to become a certified bus driver. School bus driving requires specialized training in addition to CDL classifications. The conditions of work include split shifts that run from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and then from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. There are additional runs possible for athletics or field trips for full time drivers to increase their workload. Routes include all ages of students from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Drivers must have a high school diploma or equivalent, be 21 years of age, successfully complete the bus driving certification courses, and maintain both commercial and chauffeur’s licenses. Additional requirements include an excellent driving record, empathy for children, ability to work well with others and pass random DOT-mandated drug tests as well as physical examination requirements. Starting pay is $16.98 per hour for inexperienced drivers. Acquisition of all required certifications can be completed within 4-6 weeks for highly motivated candidates. The district compensates employees while in training and pays for all certification requirements.

The worst-case scenario will include a severe reduction of routes being run for our students which would put the need for transportation upon our parents. We are not legally required by the state of Michigan to provide transportation, but our goal is to maintain our ability to transport our own students. We desperately need our community to help us find additional drivers to make this goal a reality. We anticipate needing 4-6 full-time drivers to ensure regular routes are continued. If you or someone you know is interested, please go to our website to apply. We offer a $500 sign-on bonus with $250 once all requirements are met, and the additional $250 at the conclusion of the school year.

Mr. Eric Chamberlain and I are gathering resources this week and plan to have a work session next Wednesday evening in our High School library from 5:45 p.m. - 8 p.m. to work with our community to present our challenges, pose some potential solutions and hear from them as to what might be our best solution for moving forward. We want to have small focus groups that will discuss the range of options we plan to bring. If you are interested in working with us, please fill out the application below to participate. We are seeking a range of families from all routes with children in all schools to have the most comprehensive stakeholder input possible. We hope most of our board members will be able to attend as facilitators at the discussion centers.

We regret this challenge has arrived in the Valley and hope we can rally as a community to address the problem.

Katherine Bertolini

Dr. B