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Bus driver shortage creating huge void

Mechanics, dispatchers filling routes for Perrysburg Schools

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Aura Norris, Executive Director of Human Resources and Operations at Perrysburg Schools.

The Blade
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There are more than enough Perrysburg Schools buses to accommodate the district’s students. The problem is finding people to drive them.

Perrysburg has run short on bus drivers for most of the school year — so much so that mechanics and dispatchers have had to fill in, said Aura Norris, the district’s executive director of operations. While those staff are certified to drive the buses, she said, “it takes them off of their regular jobs.”

The shortage primarily affects field trips and after-school activities, not getting students to and from school.

“All of our routes are filled, but we need people for substitutes, athletics, and after-school events,” Ms. Norris said. “Many times, we’ve had to tell coaches we don’t have drivers, especially if events are taking place at the same time as our regular routes.”

Driver shortages affect school districts across the region and state, not just Perrysburg. Both the Anthony Wayne and Maumee districts are accepting applications for substitute drivers, and shortages in Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, and Canton have caused school delays and left some parents scrambling to find ways to get their children to school.

Some officials point to an improving economy while others cite the job’s strict requirements and seasonal nature, but all agree that the shortage is putting pressure on school districts.

“Every district we sit down to talk recruitment with, bus driver recruitment is a need,” said Rachel Wixey, owner of Rachel Wixey and Associates, a Maumee-based company that provides recruiting and human-resources services for school districts across Ohio.

“It’s really a hard position to recruit and retain for. The training required, for a lot of people, feels so far out of reach.”

School bus drivers are required to have Class B commercial driver’s licenses, bus driver certification, and good driving records. But substitute drivers’ hours are short and work is on an on-call basis.

The Perrysburg district, which offers hourly pay of about $17.90 plus assistance getting bus certification, held a meet-and-greet in March for people interested in driving school buses. Just two people showed up.

“We’ve tried recruiting retired people, off-duty police officers, and firefighters,” Ms. Norris said. “There just aren’t enough bus drivers.”

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: rmullen@theblade.com, 419-343-3299.

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