FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – Classes have only just started, but one school system is already celebrating an important success.
With the start of every school year, many administrators across central Indiana face a common crisis: how to hire enough bus drivers.
The job takes training, dedication and an unflappable personality. It also requires odd hours and often offers no full-time pay or benefits.
This year, for the first time in many years, Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation has enough drivers to comfortably cover all shifts. Leaders credit a little creativity and a lot of commitment.
“They’re the caretakers of our children on their way to and from school, so that is important to us,” says Dr. Shane Robbins as he explains how he and his team are tackling the issue.
Earlier in the year, the district’s transportation team sent home a one-page flier to nearly every home in the district, offering the chance for anyone -and everyone- to learn how to drive a bus and do it for a living.
The flier is a direct appeal to parents and grandparents especially, offering “the same school schedule as your parent/grandchild”, benefits and pay of $23-$30/hour.
Response has been tremendous. The district is up to at least 40 drivers from 30 last year – and is currently training more.
“I love being able to see my children during the day,” says new driver (and former teacher) Natalie Tucker. “I get to know the teachers and community a bit better, then be home the exact same time they are.”
Tucker says until a few months ago, she never even considered driving a bus. “But now that it’s become a vision, I can’t see myself anywhere else.”
Leann Wright said her life changed with a trip to the mailbox, “Over spring break, I saw the flier come through my son’s folder for a bus driver.” After some hard Q&A and considerable family conversation, Wright shelved the business degree she was pursuing and will now drive the routes she once rode as a student.
“It was surreal walking through the old schools. It’s been 10 years and it was really neat.”
The district is happy to hire people who have little or no experience, but leaders say they will not send them out on the road without intense training.
“Physical and written tests and skills tests. A lot involved,” explains Transportation Assistant Rita Osborn. “Takes a lot of time, commitment, and money.”
So far, that commitment is paying off with peace of mind for the district, which no longer is in danger of a few driver sick calls or family emergencies leading to stranded students.
Not that the search is over.
“Come on in,” says Osborn. “I mean the more we get, the better. There’s always something we can put you into!”
To learn more about driver opportunities and many other jobs at Mt. Vernon Schools, click here.