Transportation woes hit public schools

December 11th, 2019 by Ken

Lacey schools are so short of bus drivers, that sometimes six-figure supervisors are forced to fill in for absent drivers.  Efforts to train and hire new drivers are exacerbated by full employment and Intercity Transit with a pocket full of money and full time employment.

The problem isn’t just confined to Lacey, similar problems exist in Olympia and Tumwater schools as well.

Currently, North Thurston schools are short about 10 to a dozen drivers and sickness or family emergencies make it imperative that administrators step in to fill the routes.  Efforts to get more drivers are facing the headwinds of a strong economy, and Intercity Transit which is rolling in money thanks to county taxpayers, and also offers more hours of work.

North Thurston is offering up to $26 an hour. The district says it is competitive with Intercity Transit, but can’t offer full time work.  School bus drivers work morning and afternoon shifts, as well as special trips as well.  But, the district only needs drivers 180 days a year.  Intercity Transit needs drivers 365 days a year.  Thus, a driver for the county transit system can make more money.

North Thurston offers a six-week drivers training program and pays up to $15 an hour while students are learning to drive buses.  School bus drivers must pass an extensive background check since they’re working with children.  That is a problem for some who may have or currently use marijuana.  Once hired, new drivers also face actually working with children, some of whom may have emotional or mental problems.  Personal liability issues are a concern and recently, several drivers have expressed that concern to the district.

As a child, I remember that many of our school bus drivers were teachers, or janitors or retired teachers, who wanted to stay in touch with school children and wanted to make a little money on the side.   Those days are gone and a problem is looking for a solution.

Posted in Government

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