WENTZVILLE, Mo. – From Wentzville to St. Louis, schools are facing a stressful number of bus driver vacancies. In the Wentzville School District Transportation Department, a new approach is helping to fill some of those vacancies.
When you think about driving a 40-foot piece of equipment with nearly 80 passenger seats, it can be stressful. Kim Boix and her team at the Wentzville School District Transportation Department say it can be intimidating.
“It takes a special kind of person to drive a bus,” Boix said.
Now director of the department, Boix started out as a bus driver. With a passion for students’ safety, it’s why several on her team have stepped up to the job.
“It’s a big responsibility, but the kids are wonderful,” said Jeff Rascher, a long-time bus driver.
More recently, he started training others.
“When we don’t have enough bus drivers to go around, me and Randy will go on routes,” Rascher said.
Due to the shortage, he said he sometimes takes on more than one task at a time. Currently, around 185 buses sit in the Wentzville School District Transportation Department parking lot. According to Jeff Gates, an operations manager at the facility, some days they are down to 45 drivers.
A spokesperson for the St. Louis Public Schools District said they are “100% percent” dealing with bus driver shortages. Operating under a contracted bus service, they said, hasn’t seemed to help the ongoing issues.
Boix said it’s something she and others have noticed in “a lot of schools, districts, nationwide shortage.”
They’ve been testing out the program for the last three years, but now, more access and availability to training and trainers are expanding recruiting efforts.
“This year is a little different,” Boix said.
They’re now offering training sessions on Mondays and Tuesdays between 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The training lesson will be available for the public to explore the career path throughout June.
“Your safety zones, your danger zones, we teach you all of that,” Rascher said.
He’s one of two trainers able to teach. He explains the importance of the job and the impact it can have.
“You’re the first one they see before their day of school because you’re picking them up at their house, and you’re the last person they see,” Rascher said.
With no prior experience, you can make $20 an hour. The part-time job also has full benefits, with opportunities to work overtime.
For more information on how to get involved in Wentzville School District Transportation Department program, click here.