WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Westerville City Schools Transportation Manager Randy Snyder said his district has the best drivers in the world.
But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a few more. The new school year starts Thursday.
“We are covered for tomorrow, and our drivers and the entire team and the district, our teachers, our cafeteria recess aides, our secretaries, we’re all anticipating the start of school tomorrow,” he said.
Last year, the district faced challenges with a bus driver shortage, sometimes having to release students early. Snyder pointed out this was an issue nationwide, with the latest survey showing an up to 25 percent bus driver shortage across the country.
To help offset the local challenges, the district is changing some route schedules this school year. Traditionally most drivers take on three routes – elementary, middle and high school. But the district is switching to a four-tier system this school year, with half of the elementary students starting at 9:05 a.m., and the other half starting at 9:35 a.m. That means most drivers will drive four routes total, including double elementary routes.
Still, that doesn’t mean the district is out of the woods. More drivers are needed, and the district is offering plenty of incentives to entice them. That includes a $500 referral fee for current drivers and an up to $3,000 bonus to new drivers.
“The potential for impacting a student’s school day is still there,” Snyder said. “It’s still a card in the hand, if you will, for us to utilize. However, going to the four-tier system, we’re hoping to reduce the need to do that, to minimize it as much as possible. Is it still a possibility? Yes. Our goal, at the end of the day, is to keep students in an in-person learning environment.”
10TV checked in with some of the other local districts that struggled with busing last year.
Pickerington, which contracts with Petermann, and Hilliard are fully staffed for now and ready for the new school year. Licking Heights is fully staffed but has no substitutes and is still looking for new drivers.