There are plenty of buses, 80 in fact, at the Auburn-Washburn School District headquarters. But drivers are hard to come by for Mike Lopez, the bus supervisor at USD 437.
“This is the biggest shortage we’ve had. the year i started we were short about 3 or 4 drivers,” Lopez said he started working for the district five years ago, now he’s looking to fill 13 open positions.
Given the nature of the job Lopez says the district can’t hire anyone who walks in the door. Drivers must be able to obtain a Commercial Drivers License, with endorsements to drive a school bus and to transport passengers. “We’re looking for happy people,” Lopez said the job requires a sunny disposition.
“We’re the first thing they see and you just say hi to them and the smiles you get and the hi’s you get in the morning are just great,” said Anna Cooper, a driver of five years.
If the district can’t find enough drivers they’ll have to ask substitute drivers, even mechanics with commercial drivers licenses to pick up a route, “At the end of the year last year, we used them on a regular daily basis and in talking with them at the end of the school year they were pretty wore out,” explained Lopez.
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