CCS bus driver shortage leads to district pay changes, students discuss implications

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Arthur Mansavage

CCS bus driver Dondi Bacon-Wruble greets students over the loudspeaker as they get on the bus after school. Bacon-Wruble is the driver of school bus number 50 that is pictured lined up outside of the Freshman Center. Bacon-Wruble said that the bus driver pay raise was necessary and praised the district-wide pay changes implemented for this year and next year.

Kate Loper

To combat the bus driver shortage on Sept. 13 the school board agreed to increase the bus driver salary. The increase will be 7% in 2021-2022 with an additional 2% increase in 2022-2023. Associate Superintendent Roger McMichael said leaders in the district hope to create a competitive salary compared to other schools to make CCS more appealing for new drivers. He said there has not yet been an obvious result in new applicants, but the salary is allowing for a better and more competitive wage than other districts.  

Mahmoud Homsi

The bus driver shortage has continued to impact several schoolwide schedules. The shortage, which started five years ago, has resulted in changing start and end times to allow drivers to take multiple routes. This shortage, and the subsequent problem, McMichael said, is due to CCS not having a competitive wage compared to neighboring districts. 

“I am very pleased CCS was able to provide a significant salary increase for our bus drivers. They are very dedicated and have really stepped up to do everything possible to get students to school,” McMichael said. 

This year, bus drivers had to pick up extra routes to keep up with the number of students needing to be picked up. In past years, drivers were given one or two routes, usually with about an hour in between them. The shortage has caused multiple drivers to be assigned three routes, causing many to have to push the time allotted between routes to efficiently pick up all students. 

Bus driver Dondi Bacon-Wruble said, “We really started to feel the shortage effect of drivers last year when the school system changed hours with elementary and secondary, causing drivers to work longer hours with same base pay.”

To become a bus driver, applicants must complete four weeks of training and pass the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) test. Training with an experienced driver and learning the operational aspects of the bus is also required. 

However, McMichael said that the main requirement CCS looks for in candidates is the ability to interact and engage with students on a day-to-day basis. 

 The five-year shortage has caused numerous impacts in the CCS district. Not only has the shortage impacted the drivers themselves, it has also impacted students and schools alike. 

Freshman Bella Byars, who rides the bus, said, “It’s frustrating for me especially as I’m stuck with waking up at 5 a.m. while other kids can wake up at 7 to 8 a.m.”

Many other students said they are caught in the same scenario with having to be dropped off at school earlier than they want, and having to be picked up later than they want due to the increase of routes per bus driver. 

McMichael said that he believes that it is too early to tell if this change has helped the shortage, but applauds bus drivers’ positive attitudes during this stressful time.

“There has not been a major change in terms of driver applicants, but the driver shortage is gradually improving,” McMichael said. “I hope that this pay raise does continue to increase the number of drivers applying to be a bus driver for Carmel Clay Schools, and allows those who have been working for CCS to continue to stay.”  

Additionally, according to Bacon-Wruble, the CCS district may need to implement even more incentives to attract more drivers. 

He said, “For long-term effect, I would have had a more robust pay package that included healthcare options.”

McMichael said that he understands bus drivers’ concerns and believes that the pay raise is a start in the right direction.

McMichael said, “(The pay raise) will not solve the problem, but it will tremendously contribute to it not getting worse.”

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