District hopes latest round of new hires solve late school bus pickups

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 8/17/22

CLAY COUNTY – The Clay County School District is confident 12 school bus driver vacancies can be filled by 20 candidates who already are in different parts of the hiring process.

The district …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

District hopes latest round of new hires solve late school bus pickups

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – The Clay County School District is confident 12 school bus driver vacancies can be filled by 20 candidates who already are in different parts of the hiring process.

The district has 12 current vacancies about a week into the current school year, which began Aug. 10. Supervisor of Transportation Randall Crawford said each driver is responsible for three routes. When times are lean, drivers double back due to the high capacity, meaning some drivers are handling six routes. Interim Transportation Director Scott Wiand is currently driving buses.

“Ultimately, in every district there’s a driver shortage. Certain routes must be covered. Unfortunately, we have only a certain number of drivers currently,” Crawford said. “One driver is a big deal. We celebrate every trainee that comes through.”

School districts across the country experience a shortage of drivers prior to the 2020-2021 school year, the first full year beset by the COVID-19 pandemic. The driver shortage led to district’s upping the pay and benefits due to necessity of the position.

“(COVID) did cause more driver shortages. Unfortunately, as things relaxed a bit, we still had the after effects of COVID,” Crawford said. “(Hiring drivers) would give us more breathing room with those routes. Some veterans can cover six routes.”

Crawford said the district has hired 13 drivers the past two months. Had the district not taken that step things may be more drastic than they are now, he said.

“If we haven't taken those measures, our storm would have been greyer, on that note,” Crawford said.

The district pays for all training and the Commercial Driver’s License, other than the fee to take the test at a Department of Motor Vehicles location. Crawford said there are nine candidates in the four-to-six-week training process and 12 other potential drivers are being screened.

The hourly rate starts at $15.92 and pay rates can increase based on experience, he said.

The lack of drivers meant that some students waited for an hour or more during the first three days of school, whether it’s pickup or drop-off. Not every area is the same, Crawford said, and the district expected parent feedback. Crawford, who said he takes parents’ calls daily, said the district has reduced some of its wait times.

For example, groups of students were still waiting along College Drive in Orange Park and Middleburg until 9:45 a.m. on Aug. 11 – meaning they didn’t get to class before 10.

County officials use robocalls daily to keep parents apprised of any possible delays.

“You had some schools waiting additional time, some were less and some more. You have to think about the rural areas. There’s a lot of miles to cover,” Crawford said. “There’s some frustration from parents, especially when you don’t know when your kid is getting dropped off.”

For Crawford and the district transportation team, the roughly 20 potential drivers represent a kind of light at the end of the tunnel.

“That will basically eliminate those double backs, we can then turn and make buses for a single school route rather than have a jam-packed bus,” Crawford said.

More information is available at bus.myoneclay.net.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here