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Bus driver shortage – not COVID-19 – keeping some Clio students out of class

The District currently has 13 drivers who are sometimes forced to double-up on routes or go on a second run.
Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 6:14 PM EST
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CLIO, Mich. (WJRT) - (2/8/2021) - A mid-Michigan school district is desperate for bus drivers. Clio Area Schools only has 13 drivers right now.

The shortage is forcing them to push back in-person learning for a group of students.

In the last few weeks, the District lost 6 bus drivers. An Assistant Superintendent explained three people resigned. It’s believed because of the fear of catching COVID-19.

As Clio Area Schools works to bring more students back to school, the buses are filling up, making that less of a fear and more of a reality.

“As a district, we’re very concerned. We want our drivers to be safe and our students to be safe,” Assistant Superintendent Carrie Sekelsky said.

Especially, she said, because a few of the 13 bus drivers are the oldest employees in the district.

Sekelsky explained there’s no COVID-19 restrictions on how many students a bus can transport. They’re trying to social distance, but right now up to 60 students could fit on one bus.

“Putting three in a seat or, you know, filling these buses up, is not what we want to do,” she shared. “It’s hard to contact trace if we do have an issue, you know, could take out potentially a lot of students, if there was a problem. Which again, affects their educational experience, so it’s certainly been a big problem for our district.”

But Sekelsky said, their hands are tied. If a driver calls in sick, some bus drivers have to either double up their route or go on a second run. Or, the students stay home.

Clio Area Schools planned to bring back close to 200 elementary students Monday, but had to delay their return by several weeks due to this ongoing issue.

Sekelsky’s Office created a survey they’re asking parents to fill out right now to assess the situation as a whole. On top of that effort, the District is also desperately trying to hire more drivers. Sekelsky said they’re offering incentives to not only get them in the door, but also to get them to stay through the end of the school year

“Obviously our number one goal is to educate children, and they need to be here to get that education,” she said. “So, we want to do the best that we can, but we just -- we can’t find the drivers, and it’s unfortunate.”

The District was able to secure the COVID-19 vaccine for their drivers. The 11 drivers over 40-years-old received their first dose Friday. The other two are expected to get theirs this week.

So what does it take to become a bus driver?

There are a few requirements. You need to be 18-years-old or older, have a commercial driver’s license, undergo drug and alcohol testing, pass a school bus driver certification class, a driving record check and a criminal background check.

If you’re able to clear all of those, Clio Schools are offering a few incentives, including a $1,000 signing bonus, along with bonuses for perfect attendance each pay period.

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