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Grandview community steps up to combat school bus driver shortage

Grandview School District says the majority of their newest drivers are from the area
Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-22 08:24:48-04

GRANDVIEW, Mo — Grandview C-4 School District says competing with other districts when it comes to drawing bus drivers to their community is a challenge, but thanks to neighbors and parents stepping up to the plate, bus routes for this school year won't be impacted.

It comes as the nation continues to battle an ongoing shortage of school bus drivers. Over the summer, several schools across the Kansas City area ramped up recruitment efforts to get qualified drivers behind the wheel.

“We get it done either way, but it is good if we can get extra drivers - kind of to take the load off some of the other drivers that go over and over-achieve,” said TaCarra Winda, Bus Driver for Grandview.

Winda has been driving a yellow bus in Grandview since 2019, and is also a Grandview School District parent. With the onset of the pandemic and bus driver shortage, she estimates over the course of last year she put in about 10 hours a week in overtime. Adam Schwartz, Transportation Director for Grandview C-4 School District, says his drivers as a whole average 10-20 hours in overtime last year.

“We all feel it, but we stick together,” Winda said.

Starting wage for Grandview school bus drivers is $17.52. Drivers are guaranteed an average of six hours a day and are offered a $1,000 offer referral bonus, and get paid for training. Benefits are also included. On an average year, the district has 45 drivers on staff — this year they are short five drivers.

Here’s how other districts compare — for Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, 125 bus drivers are currently on staff, and so far, all positions are filled. Starting wage ranges between $18.69 to $26.18. All training and certifications are covered by the district.

Across Kansas, Blue Valley Schools has 110 drivers on hand. As of now, all routes are covered, but they are always accepting new recruits. Starting wage for Blue Valley is $21 an hour and the district offers a sign-on bonus of up to $3,000 for those with a commercial driver's license and $1,750 without a CDL. For those without a CDL, they pay for training and the cost associated with obtaining the license and benefits.

Schwartz says competing with other districts is tough.

“We're not a huge community here,” Schwartz explained. “So there's not as big of a pool some districts have to pull from, so that has been a little bit of a challenge.”

Which is why people living in Grandview decided to get in the driver's seat of the problem. Five out of the six district's newest drivers are from the Grandview area. Parents, mechanics and even the transportation department's front office staff are known to sometimes lending a helping hand if they carry a CDL.

“A lot of them are alumni of the district that have stepped up, so we really saw that influx when we asked for the help. Part of it, I will say, is pure luck, but I think part of it is our culture,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz doesn’t think overtime for this year will mirror what was seen last year because of the community’s aid.

“We’re small and they all come together when we need them, and so they also help us make it better,” Winda said.