Alpine School District tries to fill bus driver shortage

AMERICAN FORK, Utah -- The Alpine School District has come up with a unique way to draw in new bus drivers, in an effort to fill a shortage on bus routes.

They're raising the wages and offering $1,000 to new employees -- but there are a few rules involved in taking the money.

Right now, the district is short about 20 bus drivers. Some current drivers are doubling up on their routes to make up the difference at Vista Heights Middle School.

"Bus drivers will go pick up kids in the morning, drop them off at school then go back, and pick up more kids for the same school," said Rex Brimhall, Alpine School District Director of Transportation West. He said it's the same when drivers bring kids home in the afternoon.

Parents said it's making their kids arrive pretty late.

"The first day of school, my daughter came home about an hour after school was out," said Jamie Austin, whose daughter is in 8th grade.

Because her daughter needs to get to after-school activities, Austin said she's now picking her daughter up from school instead of having her daughter take the bus.

Sina Penrod said the same about her daughter, who is in 7th grade.

"When we had found out that they were doing the dual bus route, that was just too much for her to wait," Penrod said. "So we decided that I'd just drop her off and pick her up."

Recently, Brimhall said the district decided to raise the bus driver wage to $18.30 an hour.

On Wednesday, the district announced another way to bring relief.

"Our superintendent is fronting $20,000 to help cover the cost of being licensed, and going through the training for our district to become a bus driver," Brimhall explained.

That amounts to about $1,000 for each new bus driver, but some of the money will go toward paying to get a CDL license, and the driver will need to go through a week of training, Brimhall indicated.

"When it's all said and done--the cost of licensing, getting the permit, taking the tests and then the time that they spend in our training class -- they're getting kind of an addendum, a stipend to cover that time they would be in the class," he said.

It's not just bus driving jobs the district needs to fill. Public Relations Administrator David Stephenson said there's other various roles they're hiring for.

"Right now we're looking at about 150 job openings," he said. "Those include nutrition service workers, bus drivers, night time custodians, sweepers, teacher assistants."

Stephenson said they hope to fill those positions this fall. For the bus drivers, they hope to get all 20 spots taken up by the training course in mid-September.

Once the bus routes return to normal, parents say they'll probably resume sending their kids to school on the bus.

"I know school is doing the best that they can," Austin said. "So I hope they are able to find people that will take the job."

Anyone interested in applying for a bus driving or other position can find more information here.