GRANITE CITY, Ill. (KMOV.com) – The Granite City School District is advocating for more bus drivers to join its fleet after losing more than 40 drivers in the past two years.
The district said COVID-19 has amplified the problem, particularly with its older drivers.
“We found out that we had an older population of bus drivers and I don’t know if COVID-19 was something they didn’t want to deal with,” Granite City School District Superintendent Stephanie Cann said. “Historically, this district is more difficult to recruit than others when it comes to bus drivers, at least that’s what Illinois Central School Bus tells us.”
The district contracts with the Illinois Central School Bus company and employs the drivers. The district has launched its own recruiting efforts, complementing the bus company’s work to acquire new drivers.
“We have 30 pilots waiting behind the scenes, but historically about 50% of them pass the process,” Cann said. “So you’re counting on maybe 15 or 16 pilots. “
Currently, around 3,000 students in the district do not have access to a bus to and from school. While some families are able to adjust, others are forced to miss school. The district said attendance rates had fallen, especially among fifth and sixth graders.
“I worked for the county for 34 years. I was bored staying at home, so I got up from the couch, stopped watching Netflix and started driving a bus,” said Tammy Lane, who has been a driver in the district for three years. “Don’t be intimidated, this is fun.”
The district said other local job opportunities, such as a new Amazon fulfillment center, tend to tap into the same pool of applicants. In addition, all drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license to operate a school bus.
Illinois Central will pay prospective drivers to train for their CDL and the school district is currently offering a $ 3,000 enrollment bonus.
“It was really out of my comfort zone, but once I started driving I love it,” Lane said. “I’d rather drive this than my car.”
In the past few days, the district has brought five bus lines back into service, providing some high school and high school students with reliable transportation. However, the district said it was able to run 15 routes.
“It’s not at all ideal in our district. We’re unique in this area and it’s something we need to understand as soon as possible,” Cann said.
The district provides full bus service to elementary school students as it wanted to prioritize younger students with fewer options to get to school. It has also partnered with Madison County Transit to allow students to ride the bus for free until the end of October. To apply, visit www.driveayellowbus.com.
“We beg people, please help us,” Cann said. “It is not a long term solution.”
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