Madison-Plains looks for solutions to bus driver shortage

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(Posted Sept. 26, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

School districts everywhere share a common challenge–finding enough bus drivers. Madison-Plains Local Schools is no exception. School leaders are working on ways to solve the issue.

Mark Mason, president of the Madison-Plains school board, said the district needs a new game plan.

“We’re doing our best, but it’s frustrating for the families when we can’t fill the routes,” he said at a recent board meeting.

The district is constantly on the hunt for bus drivers.

“We have had job postings up and interviewed people, but for various reasons it has not been working out,” said Superintendent Chad Eisler. “We are at least three drivers short of where we want to be. If we could add four, that would be nice.”

Currently, the district’s bus drivers work 20 hours per week and receive the same insurance that full-time employees receive.

“To be good to our employees, we offer them full insurance,” Eisler said.

That means that full-time insurance premiums and retirement benefits come out of those part-time paychecks. With a 20-hour per week job, that doesn’t leave much net pay.

“I believe we have employees who strictly drive (buses) for the insurance. For some folks, that may work, but for other folks, that doesn’t,” Eisler said.

He explained that part-time bus driving used to be attractive to individuals like farmers and housewives who wanted to pick up insurance and who could manage the early morning and late afternoon schedule. Other benefits include summers off and several holiday breaks. The interest in that kind of job just isn’t the same anymore, Eisler said.

In an attempt to solve the issue, school leaders are looking at structuring a few job positions differently so they can hire individuals as 40-hour per week employees to not only serve as bus drivers but also handle other tasks in the district.

Administrators and the board will discuss the idea at the next school board meeting which is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 18 in the district meeting room at the elementary building.

At the Sept. 20 school board meeting, the board recognized two bus drivers for their willingness to do what it takes to get children to school, including running double routes. The drivers are Dorothy “Cricket” Holliday and Dawn Liff.

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