NORTH SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Students in Central New York have been in school for nearly two weeks, and many school districts are still facing a school bus driver shortage.
Its been four years since Jessica Beardsley decided to get behind the wheel of a 35 foot long school bus.
“I absolutely love my job. Never in a million years would I ever thought I would be a bus driver,” says Beardsley.
However, it hasn’t always been an easy ride.
“These last two years of recruitment with the pandemic has been very stressful and we haven’t been getting the normal amount of applications and candidates that we had in the past,” says Matt Conti, Director of Transportation for North Syracuse Central School District.
Conti says recruitment this summer was roughly half the amount of applications the district normally receives.
“We usually receive about 40 applications, 50 applications and we received about half of that,” says Conti.
The shortage stems from the pandemic and retirements. School bus drivers are also required to go through extensive training, which has made replacement even more difficult.
“You have to have a commercial drivers license. You have to have a Class B with a passenger endorsement and an S endorsement, which is a school bus driver endorsement. So it’s probably about a 4 to 6 week training program,” says Conti.
Recently, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a multi-agency plan to address the school bus driver shortage across the state. Short term steps to remove barriers and recruit traditional and non-traditional Commercial Driver’s License holders is part of that plan. It also includes, expanding CDL testing opportunities and enhance procedures. Conti says this plan can only help.
“Cutting through the red tape as they said would also streamline the position, or the process of getting school bus drivers up and running in a timely fashion. So we welcome it, and I am very impressed. I got an email asking if I would like to be a school bus driver, coming from the Department of Motor Vehicles. So that really went out to anybody that had a commercial drivers license,” says Conti.
Conti says he is feeling the pressure, but is not giving up.
“We’re going to continue to recruit, where we would only recruit at certain times in a year, this is an ongoing process for North Syracuse. We’re prepared to do that and we’re going to move forward for it,” says Conti.
The help wanted sign remains up in North Syracuse. The district wants to hire at least five school bus drivers and as many as five school bus attendants.
On September 30, a job fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the North Syracuse Central School District Transportation Department.