KANSAS CITY, Mo — Weeks before the start of the 2022-23 school year, Kansas City Public Schools continues to actively recruit school bus drivers. The district needs 145 bus drivers to be fully staffed, and so far, they have 110.
"We started back in May, this active recruiting model, and even if we get to 100% strength, we're gonna continue to recruit because we either lose drivers or people may not make it through the CDL process, or somebody may offer a higher incentive than what we offer," KCPS Director of Transportation Chris Walls said.
Right now, if you become a bus driver with KCPS, starting wage is $18.25. New bus drivers will get a $2,000 bonus and if you're referred by one of their drivers, they are eligible for a $500 referral bonus. Last year, the shortage led the district to issue a plan where routes were cut or condensed.
"We covered almost every bus route that we needed to on time, even at worst case, we were a few minutes late, but we didn't cancel activities, we didn't cancel any athletics trips, we didn't cancel any of that stuff last year because we had those fail-safe plans," Walls said.
Due to the driver shortage, bus route times increased by eight minutes last year when compared to 2020. In 2021, 7,500 KCPS students rode the bus. In 2020, ridership was at 8,400.
"We may not get you there 20 minutes ahead of bell schedule," Walls said. "It may be more like five or 10 minutes ahead of bell schedule, but we've got a backup plan in case we don't meet that."
Jerome Franklin has been a school bus driver at KCPS for more than 12 years. Franklin has had to double up on routes because of the shortage, but continues to be committed to the job.
"It takes a village to raise these kids, and these kids are our future," Franklin said. "At the end of the day, when we get older and become elderly, it's the kids that we're leaving the world to and they need this education to be able to run the world."
Bus drivers can apply through Student Transportation of America. Meanwhile, KCPS is encouraging parents to ensure the district has the right address on file to prepare for the upcoming school year. Parents can make changes by contacting KCPS or through Infinite Campus Database.