ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – St. Louis County needs your help with their bus driver shortages.
Trainers with Parkway School District actually taught FOX 2’s Amelia Mugavero the basics on how to drive a school bus – all to show how easy it is.
Like most districts across the area, Parkway is down about 10 bus drivers as of right now. The district has been dealing with an increasing shortage since the pandemic.
The district provides paid training and benefits. It is even increasing its starting wage this summer – which will range from $18.85 to $26.50 per hour depending on experience.
Director of Transportation Will Rosa shared that the most common question he gets is whether driving a big bus is hard or not.
“We do get that question a lot, and we told people to try it, and they’ll be surprised that with some training, and you get comfortable it’s not that difficult to drive believe it or not,” Rosa explained. “Again, you have to like the kid you have to have a real affinity for children because you’re going to spend a lot of time with them, but it’s really fun it’s a fun job.”
Mugavero practiced moving the bus back and forth in the parking lot, even dodging cones and obstacles. Future drivers need to practice at least a couple of hours a day for about three weeks. Rosa said Parkway’s training is all paid, and they have a competitive wage, but they still have been short bus drivers.
“It does seem like maybe for the past five years it seems like we have been searching for drivers more since COVID – probably worse last couple years,” Rosa added.
He says it’s about a 25-hour commitment per week with benefits. Gary Kinder is on his third day training to be a driver and says the pay is a perk, but he has a special connection to the job.
“I grew up in small town Illinois and my mom was actually a bus driver,” Kinder said, “I would say it’s easier than I thought. Not sure if I would say easy, but easier than I thought.”
The driving part might have been easy, but with kids on board, there is definitely a lot of responsibility and a lot of rewards.
“You want to spend some time with the future of our country, our kids. Getting them to and from school – it’s a good feeling and a purposeful job.”
Officially, bus drivers will need to apply and get a CDL license and pass a background check.