School Bus Driver Shortage Sparks Search for Qualified Workers

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Getting your child to and home from school safely is a major concern for any parent.

In Kanawha County, there's a great need for those who make that possible.

Many school bus drivers are hanging up the keys and retiring, leaving behind a shortage of drivers.

Everything about operating a school bus comes natural to Jimmy Lacy. He's been on the job for more than 20 years.

“I do love this job,” Lacy said.

But driving isn't really his job. He's now the supervisor of safety and training for transportation in Kanawha County schools.

Because of the driver shortage, he and many others in the transportation department have no choice but to get behind the wheel.

“Our mechanics are certified to drive," Lacy said. "Our supervisors and driver clerks in each terminal, they're all on the road driving instead of being in the office or garages doing what they need to do.”

So the search is on for about 20 good qualified drivers.

“When they put their child on the bus they want to make sure their child is going to be safe,” George Beckett, executive director of transportation, said.

There’s no question driving a school bus comes with a lot of responsibility. Not only are you staying focused on the road, but you’re also keeping a close eye on the dozens of kids behind you.

If you want to become a school bus driver, you'll have to put some miles into it.

First, there’s a background check and a drug and alcohol screening.
Then there’s weeks of training. This includes getting a Class B Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and completing several non-driving and on-the-road training sessions.

“The major thing we look for is people who really care about kids,” Beckett said.

And the sooner candidates can get in the driver's seat the better.

“You've got drivers working that are sick because there's no one to cover their run,” Lacy said.

The need for more drivers is so great they're working to schedule training sessions in the evenings to accommodate those who work during the day.

The school system will also pay for the CDL and reimburse you for part of the training.

The starting wage for bus drivers in Kanawha County is $107.90 a day. That goes up depending on education and experience.

For information regarding the open positions, call (304) 348-6616 or go online to kcs.kana.k12.wv.us


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