Teacher takes on dual role as bus driver amid shortage in Montrose schools

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MONTROSE (WJRT) - (04/16/19) - Teachers are used to solving complicated problems inside the classroom.

But for a Montrose math teacher, the answer to this problem took him outside of the classroom and to the Secretary of State.

Kuehn-Haven Middle School math teacher Casey Shuck enjoys a lot about being a teacher.

"Just taking where they're coming from every day and helping them to get to where you know they can get to, and convincing them that they have that high ceiling," Shuck said.

He does help them get where they're going, not just by providing the tools to solve complicated Algebra problems, but by taking on another job entirely.

"Our transportation coordinator Angie Florian had sent out multiple email requests for anyone who knew anyone that could drive a bus," Shuck said.

He paid little attention to the requests at first before finally giving in.

"I had a dirty little secret that when I was in Texas I had already gotten certified to drive a school bus while I was coaching," Shuck said.

A couple of years ago while teaching in Texas, he also coached soccer and drove his team to matches. In Montrose it’s a little different because these are students from different classes.

"I'm really filling in like a substitute teacher with a lot of kids I don't know, and it's extremely difficult," Shuck said.

Shuck is a part of a growing trend and temporary answer to a major problem facing many communities across the country. Teachers, administration and school employees are being asked to fill the void.

"There's a shortage of bus drivers across the state, nationwide, it's just really tough to find drivers."

Transportation Director Angie Florian said they have 11 regular runs and two substitutes on staff, but are still in need. So, why is there a shortage?

"I'm not completely surprised by the need for bus drivers. They're not super highly paid. They're not super highly respected. We don't treat them nearly the way we need to," Shuck said.

Florian says the shortage is the result of a number of issues, including changes to school scheduling.

"We used to have the middle of the day kindergarten runs. Once the half day kindergarten went away the drivers kind of lost those middle of the day hours and then a lot of schools have gone to a single tiered run, which we have a k through 12 run here," Florian said. "The hours in the morning - you only get about an hour and a half and then a hour and a half in the afternoon, which is a split shift. So, there's really a need for drivers and it's really hard to fill when you have to split your day up like that."

Subs in Montrose start at $14 an hour. You need a CDL, and the school district does some onsite training with you. It’s not for everyone but for some people, having their day broken up is ideal.

"They definitely have a school schedule so they're not working during the summer if that works for them. They do have to get up in the morning and run their shift but they have their whole day until 2:30 p.m. when I need them back for the afternoon run, so for someone that's retired or a stay at home mom you know it's a split shift and that kind of works for them," Florian said.

Shuck drives on an as needed basis, but he has pulled a double. Once before he drove before school, taught class, then drove kids home. It's a long day, but he sees the value in having his classroom on the road.

"It's always nice to get to see kids in a different situation and the kids see you in a different situation. Getting to know the community, knowing whose house is whose as you drive past all these different places and I'm going hey that's where so and so lives," Shuck said.

If you're interested in becoming a school bus driver, call Florian directly at 810-591-8854.