NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) -There is a growing shortage of school bus drivers across the state. Many districts in our area are feeling its effects, on top of COVID-19 concerns with transportation.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of news reports that’s its happening all around the nation with school bus drivers and also substitute teachers,” Lindale ISD Director of Communications Courtney Sanguinetti said.
Lindale ISD officials say within the last three weeks, seven bus drivers have decided not to return due to COVID-19 concerns; the latest last night.
“In our particular situation, our bus drivers’ health plays a factor in not wanting to return for the upcoming school year,” Sanguinetti said. “Part of the problem is the driver demographic. Many school bus drivers are retired, and their age and medical condition may put them at a higher risk of contracting the virus.”
Sanguinetti said before the pandemic hit, the district had about 4,100 students and nearly half rode the bus to get to school and return home. The district says they are working to hire more drivers, on top of their COVID-19 reopening plans for transportation.
“We will run our traditional routes as usual,” Sanguinetti said. “We will try to do social distancing on buses, as best we can. Students, bus drivers and bus monitors will be required all be wearing face masks. We will have hand sanitizer stations available for when they get on the bus and when they exit the bus. According to our parent survey, we expect half of the amount of students we normally have to ride the bus. We usually have about 2,000 students riding the school bus, and we expect about half of that according to our parent survey that we sent out.”
In Shelby County at Tenaha ISD, Superintendent Scott Tyner says they are experiencing a surplus of bus drivers.
“Lucky circumstances really,” he said. “We’ve actually got one or two guys on a waiting list to get a route.”
He says the district’s size plays a key role.
“We’re small for one thing, so we don’t happen to have as many routes and many needs as a lot of the larger schools,” he said. “And we’re not a big school district in terms of square mileage.” (Tyner)
Before school ended in the spring, Tyner says out of the 520 students in the district about half rode the bus; with five to six routes on average.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be changes. Tyner says all students who ride the bus must wear a mask coming to school in the mornings.
“At least at that point, we can mitigate any exposure from the time you left school, yesterday, to the time you got on that bus in the morning through the mask,” he said. “Then, when you get to campus, we’re doing the screenings and temperature checks.”
Many school districts offer several incentives to attract new drivers like higher wages and bonus. If you are interested in becoming a bus driver, here are the requirements as listed by Lindale ISD:
- Valid Texas commercial driver’s license (Class A or B) Special;
- Must be 21 years of age and ability to pass alcohol and drug test;
- Ability to complete required bus driver safety training 20 hour training class, followed by 8 hour class every 3 years;
- Ability to follow written and verbal instructions;
- Ability to communicate effectively;
- Acceptable driving record;
- Knowledge of student discipline procedure;
- Ability to manage student behavior;
- Ability to operate bus;
- Must have annual physical exam
- You can find training sessions near you here: https://www.dps.texas.gov/schoolbus/index.htm.
- You can view both school district’s full reopening plans on their website: