Bus Drivers Needed

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Wanted: someone to take the wheel of those friendly and familiar behemoths that carry kids to and from school. Transportation officials say so far 34 drivers have answered the call, close to what the county needed, but still not enough.

Craig Falconer, the Assistant Transportation Director, says he thinks they're going to need about 40-plus drivers. Why the change in numbers? Transportation officials say 50 drivers was a dream list. That would help them for most of the year They say 34 is a good start, barring any unexpected problems.

The district already knows it'll be down nine to 10 drivers to start the year because of long-term illnesses and worker's compensation cases. If it's a typical year, several drivers will quit because they don't like the job. Plus, administrators aren't sure of the kindergarten numbers yet.

The Transportation Department has a few mechanics and some dispatchers who could drive buses on a temporary basis. They're required to keep their commercial driver's licenses as a condition of their employment, but if that happened, district officials say they'd be back to square one, being behind for the rest of the school year.

Long-term solutions include raising the salary to bring in more bus drivers, but that's up to the administration, or banking part of their salary so that drivers receive a check during the summer. Right now, they're not getting paid three months out of the year.

Bottom line: the school district says the buses will be where they're supposed to be come August 29. The county says it had such a hard time meeting its hiring goals this summer mainly because the state's unemployment rate was so low, and competition from other potential employers was so high.