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Rowan-Salisbury facing shortage of bus drivers

With just a week to go before the start of classes, the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s transportation department is facing a critical shortage of bus drivers.

District officials blame state budget uncertainties and regular turnover for the predicament.

Transportation Director Tim Beck said 60 percent of the district’s bus drivers are teacher assistants, and with state funding unsure for those teacher assistant positions, they lost some drivers over the summer.

“We’ve lost at least 50,” he said.

Beck said most of the vacancies are substitute bus drivers, although there are a few immediate vacancies for permanent drivers.

“Right now, we’re utilizing every warm body that can drive a bus,” he said. “Our subs are in the single digits.”

With 250 bus drivers each day, the district has a high need for substitutes. Beck said they could use between 20 and 30 a day.

The transportation department has reached out to potential applicants through ConnectEd messages, at job fairs and with signs posted on the bus garage lawn. They’ve also tightened their bus routes and implemented more bus sharing between schools, made possible by the district’s new bell times.

To be eligible to become a bus driver, an individual must be at least 18 years old. They must have had their driver’s license for at least six months, and have no more than one moving violation in the last 12 months and no more than three in the last five years. An applicant must never have had a DWI or DUI, or had their license suspended in the last five years.

Interested individuals must apply for the position on the school system’s website, then contact the transportation department to set up a training date.

Potential bus drivers must go through three days of classroom work and three days of training behind the wheel before they can receive their CDL class B license. In addition, they must get a pocket card, which is an endorsement from the state.

The class is provided at no charge, and all but $12 of the $93 CDL license is provided. The $12 covers the applicant’s individual license. There’s an $89 charge at ProMed for the necessary physical and drug test, but $30 of that fee will be reimbursed, as well. Current Rowan-Salisbury employees are reimbursed immediately, while new employees must drive 30 days before receiving reimbursement.

They must also be able to pass a drug test and a background check.

Beck said there’s usually a two-month period between when an individual applies and when they begin working.

Bus drivers typically work between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m. and between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

“We can work with just about anyone’s schedule,” Beck said, explaining that bus drivers can work one time slot or both.

“It’s a great job for a stay-at-home mom, for example,” he said.

For more information, visit the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s website and go to the transportation section, or call Tonya Cantrell at 704-639-3051, extension 112.

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