By Dedra Cordle
The South-Western City Schools District is taking measures to attract and maintain staff within the transportation department.
At its meeting on Sept. 27, the board of education unanimously approved an hourly rate hike for substitute bus drivers, effective Sept. 20, 2021.
Under the new action, substitute drivers will receive $18.25 per hour with the ability to receive lump sum payments of $500, $750, and $1,000 should they continue working with the district after 50 days, 100 days and 150 days, respectively.
Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise said this measure was needed as the district continues to struggle to hire and retain drivers.
“We are scrambling to find workers to fill in for our (regular) drivers,” he said.
He said he is concerned that with the winter approaching and staff calling out for illnesses, the district may not be able to maintain normal transportation operations in the near future.
“We need to be in a position to fill these spots,” he said. “This (hourly rate hike) is an attempt to do that.”
South-Western City Schools is not the only district facing bus driver shortages; in fact, driver shortages are being felt across the state and throughout the country.
To address the issue, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently activated its National Guard to drive kids to school amid the shortage. Several districts in Ohio have called on Governor Mike DeWine to do the same.
At a press briefing on Sept. 24, DeWine said he and Attorney General David Yost were committed to prioritizing background checks for school bus drivers and others pursuing their Commercial Driver’s License. All school bus drivers have to have a CDL in order to operate a school bus.
“This will not solve all of the problems in regard to bus drivers but it was one of the things that we looked at that we could actually take some immediate action and we believe get some results and speed some of this up,” DeWine said at the briefing.
The district said it will also assist those seeking to become bus drivers, regular or substitute, obtain their CDL.
In addition to a shortage of substitute bus drivers, the district is also experiencing a shortage of substitute teachers. At the Sept. 27 meeting, the board unanimously approved an increase of the daily substitute teaching rates of $155 for retired SWCS teachers, $145 for sub pool substitute teachers, and $130 for day-to-day substitute teachers, effective Oct. 1, 2021. Like substitute bus drivers, substitute teachers will also receive lump sum payments of $500, $750, and $1,000 after working at the district for 50 days, 100 days, and 150 days, respectively. To become a substitute teacher, one must have obtained a bachelor’s degree.
To find more information on how to apply to become a substitute bus driver or substitute teacher, visit the district’s employment section on its website, swcsd.us.
In other meeting news, Michael Dingeldein, the director of architecture and planning with the Community Design Alliance, presented the board with an update on the middle school construction project.
According to Dingeldein, the project is facing typical struggles with supply chain issues related to insulation, foam and steel, but has otherwise not felt a deep impact with material and supply delays.
“We are right on schedule (with the planned opening for the fall of 2022),” he said.
He did, however, state that inflation has risen due in large part to supply chain delays and worker shortages. For instance, the cost of furniture has risen 40 percent since the build project began. He said they are currently looking through the district’s inventory to see if some furniture or classroom furnishings can be reused at the new sites.
Wise said this particular Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project has been the district’s “most challenging round” of school builds due to supply chain issues and pandemic related delays.
He said despite the challenges, the project continues to be “on time and on budget, or within our budget.”
In 2018, voters approved a 38-year, $93.4 million bond issue to pay for its share of the OFCC project which will replace four of its oldest middle schools and make renovations to another. Pleasant View Middle School and Brookpark Middle School will be relocated to Holt Road and the new Beulah Park Living development, respectively. The district is currently seeking community input on renaming those schools. To take part in their survey, visit their website at swcsd.us.