School bus drivers shortage critical in Washoe County

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RENO, NV (KOLO)-- They are trusted with the important job of delivering thousands of our children to and from school every day.... And the Washoe County School District says there aren't enough of them.

It seems there's a critical shortage of school bus drivers. The district has 40 open positions today, but allowing for those calling in sick, they can be short as many as 50 to 55 drivers any given day.

That doesn't mean students are being left by the curbside. The district covers all the routes by filling in with office and dispatch staff, but it's put a strain on everyone.

It’s not as if the job is without its attractions. Starting pay is just under $16 dollars an hour with full medical benefits and public employee retirement. Typically it's a split shift which some may find attractive, but some who do it say it has rewards that can't be measured in hours or dollars.

"I'm the first person the kid sees in the morning and I greet each of them by name with a big smile on my face. And I'm the last person they see before they go home," says veteran driver Pam Dickson. "So I can have a positive influence on those kids."

Dickson has been driving a school bus for six years now.

She says she had never driven anything bigger than a minivan when she signed up.

The school district trains new drivers and before they hit the road they will have a commercial driver's license.

In fact, that's part of the district's dilemma.

Once someone has that license, it opens up other opportunities and some leave.

Others like Pam Dickson stay, often they say, because they like being around the kids.

The school district has planned what they're calling a bus driver information session next Monday. 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm at 1150 Matley Lane, Reno

They'll be taking applications and doing interviews on the spot.

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