A severe shortage of bus drivers in the Pikes Peak region’s largest school district means Academy School District 20 bus mechanics, bus driver trainers and department supervisors are filling in on routes.
“Almost everyone in transportation has commercial drivers’ licenses with the proper endorsement to transport students on an emergency basis,” said Brian Grady, D-20’s executive director of security and transportation.
“They are driving on a fairly regular basis, so it’s a little stressful as far as getting their normal duties completed.”
The district has lacked drivers for 12 of its 130 routes since school started in August, Grady said.
Some schools are canceling field trips and other activities due to the situation, he said.
“We’ve engaged in advertising, tried for referrals, posted jobs online and have signs that encourage folks to apply,” he said.
Officials sent out a districtwide letter Monday afternoon offering a $200 incentive for district employees, except administrators, who recruit a new bus driver.
D-20 bus drivers earn $15.63 an hour and are eligible to participate in health, dental, vision and voluntary insurance. Drivers typically work four to six hours a day Monday through Friday, can sign up for pension benefits, have summers off and can earn extra hours by transporting students to athletic events, field trips and club competitions.
As part of the training program, D-20 pays for commercial licensing.
“We will take someone off the street that has no experience in driving a bus and train them to get their learner’s permit for their commercial driver’s license and pass the test to start transporting students,” Grady said.
The district also had difficulties finding drivers last school year, he said, but this year it’s worse because the district opened a new middle school and changed school boundaries.
“With that, we’re providing dual transportation in some areas, which increases our need for bus drivers,” Grady said.
Other area school districts, such as Colorado Springs School District 11, have had the same problem off and on. This year, though, D-11 is fully staffed, spokeswoman Devra Ashby said.
Denver Public Schools and schools in Jefferson County also have a notable lack of drivers.
Given the strong economy, businesses are in heavy competition for workers, Grady said. Bus drivers usually are parents who have school-age children and like the work schedule or are retirees looking for a job with benefits, he said.
“It’s a meaningful job,” Grady said. “Bus drivers form professional relationships with the kids and get some enjoyment out of getting them to and from school.
“They’re the first person kids see in the morning and the last person at night and set the tone for how the day will go. They really do make a positive impact in kids’ lives.”
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