VIRGINIA BEACH — Yet again the city’s public school district is on the hunt for bus drivers to fill vacant positions left by retirees and resignations, this time to the tune of around 40 drivers.
This shortage is because of a few things, said David Pace, executive director of transportation and fleet management services for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.
First, Pace points to a lingering shortage from last year that wasn’t filled which left the district around 18-20 bus drivers short, and secondly he points to the aging population of the district’s bus drivers.
“We’ve got a fairly aged school bus driver rank,” he said.
And more retired this year.
The last reason is simple.
“When the economy is great, the job of the school bus driver isn’t as attractive,” he said.
There are perks to being a bus driver for the school district, however.
Pace said the school district is one of few that pays for the two to three weeks of training that goes into certification.
That coupled with the fact that bus drivers who work for the district full-time get full health benefits, makes the job comparable to other part-time and full-time gigs around the city.
The path to becoming a driver
“School bus drivers are the most regulated position in the school district,” Pace said.
In addition to yearly re-certifications, bus drivers are also submitted to alcohol and drug checks, annual physicals, criminal background checks and must have a good driving record certified by the DMV, he said.
Everything the school district does is mandated by federal regulation, he added.
Once a driver gets the job, the contract is automatically renewed every year unless told otherwise.
The contracts are 186 days and come out to about five to six hours a day at a pay rate of between $14.60 to $22.12 an hour based on experience, Pace said.
There are summer contracts drivers can sign as well.
The road ahead
Pace knows that every year the district will be tasked with finding new bus drivers but as it stands right now, the district is already operating about 18-20 bus drivers short.
In addition to that, Pace said they are also in desperate need of substitute bus drivers..
There are two ways to cover the shortage, doubling the bus up or doubling the bus back, he said.
Doubling up means putting the maximum number of students on a bus which is 64 passengers and doubling back means having a bus make more than one run at a time to pick up students.
The buses are already carrying 34-35 students per bus for middle and high school and 50 to 52 students for elementary, Pace said.
This year those numbers will jump up to 44 students for middle and high school and 54-64 for elementary students.
That comes out to two students per seat for the former and three to a seat for the latter.
Of course that brings more concerns with parents worried about overloaded buses or their kids being late to school, he added.
Those interested in becoming a school bus driver should click here.