FROM STAFF REPORTS
With about a month remaining until the start of the new school year, Iredell-Statesville Schools officials are working hard to fill about 200 open positions at schools throughout the district.
Officials are hesitant to use the word “crisis” to describe the shortage of bus drivers, but the district is taking aggressive steps in an effort to fill 46 open positions. Superintendent Jeff James held a three-hour meeting with drivers, bus coordinators, and principals this week in an effort to address this issue.
“We came out with a game plan to hopefully provide a bus route for students that need one,” James said.
As result of that meeting and consultations with school board members, I-SS will increase the starting/minimum pay for bus drivers to $17.62 per hour, effective immediately.
Returning drivers will also get a raise based on their years of experience, James said. The position currently maxes out at $22.43 per hour.
In other efforts aimed recruiting/retaining bus drivers:
♦ I-SS will double the monthly bonus it pays drivers who don’t miss a day of work to $100;
♦ The district will pay teachers who run a morning or afternoon bus route $7,500 annually; and
♦ Teachers or coaches who sign up to run routes as needed can earn $42 per route for about two hours of work.
District officials have also been working on consolidating some routes and have asked parents to notify their child’s school and let them know if they will be riding the bus this year.
It will be difficult for the district to provide transportation to all students if it cannot fill the open positions.
“Almost every school has routes that aren’t covered,” said Boen Nutting, the district’s chief of strategic planning and student services.
Alternatives include changing the starting and ending times of schools to allow existing bus drivers to run longer routes involving more schools.
Parents should not expect their children will be able to occasionally ride the bus, and any student who does not ride for 10 days will be dropped from the route, district officials said.
Many principals and assistant principals drive buses regularly, which takes away time that could be devoted to other responsibilities.
“Brian Foster, the principal at Lakshore Elementary, drove almost every day last year,” Nutting said.