Desperate for school bus drivers: Jackson, NJ jacks up wages
The Jackson school district is hoping an increase in the base pay will help ease its storage of bus and van drivers.
Districts have had to consolidate routes, change starting times at some schools and cut transportation to sports to cope with a shortage of drivers. Camden public schools offered parents $1,000 if they or a member of their household transport their children to and from school each day for the 2021-22 academic year.
The state helped ease the shortage by taking advantage of a waiver from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that temporarily eliminates a part of the licensing process that required candidates to identify engine parts.
Jackson's Board of Education voted Wednesday to raise the base pay from $22.67 to $30 with the goal of hiring 30 drivers to meet some of the busing challenges in the district like double runs requiring drivers to drive double runs for one school which leads to pickup and dropoff delays.
“If we can’t get students to school, they can’t learn — and our ability to do that consistently is at risk due to this crisis," Business Administrator Michelle Richardson said in a statement. “This change will allow us to recruit and retain qualified, dedicated staff members who are vital to the operations of this district.’’
The district also upped the pay for van aides to $18.50 per hour.
What it's like driving a school bus
Interim Director of Transportation Kristopher Soto said driving a bus has some advantages including guaranteed hours plus opportunities for additional work on nights, weekends and summer. There are also the benefits that don't show up in any paycheck,
“Our drivers make special connections that have long-lasting, positive impacts in their lives. It is a great job that really makes a difference. We hope people consider joining us so we can be in a better position to support our students," Soto said.
Drivers will work a minimum of six-and-a-half hours per day and also receive full medical and health benefits, a state pension and
What's required to be a Jackson school bus driver
Among the requirements for applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, a Class B commercial driver license, a validated medical certificate, the ability to read and write English.
Drivers must also be able to move a 100-pound weight across 40 feet, which simulates dragging a child to safety in the event of an emergency.
Those interested in applying to be a driver can apply on the district website.
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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