SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Everyone thinks of students and teachers when the topic of going back to school comes up. But school districts around the country — and around Oregon — are dealing with staffing shortages in a number of areas.
TJ Crockett, the director of Transportation Services at Salem-Keizer Public Schools, told KOIN 6 News they would like to have 40 more bus drivers before that first bell on the first day.
“We do all the work to help you get your test completed at the DMV, teach you how to drive the bus. I promise the gears are better than on your car, so it’s easier to know where your vehicle is in space,” Crockett said. “All of that is paid time and quality time with our instructors.”
The training does take time. But the pay starts at $20 per hour for a bus driver in Salem-Keizer — and that includes the training. There are also incentives and bonuses available.
When a district doesn’t have enough drivers, routes are longer, kids have to be up earlier and get home later. Some districts have to rotate bus schedules, and that means kids sometimes have to find a different way to get to and from school.
Crockett said the bus drivers serve a diverse population of students.
“Transportation is one of the great equalizers when it comes to accessing transportation,” he said. “The teachers can’t do the work if we can’t get the students there. So, we do start our day with them every day and we help set that tone.”
Classes in the Salem-Keizer district begin September 6 for 6th- and 9th-graders. All other grades from K-12 begin September 7.