School districts often are looking for bus drivers, a job that takes a good amount of training and carries much responsibility.

“We’re always looking for bus drivers,” Kenston Transportation Director Melody Coniglio said. “We’re all hiring,” she said of area schools.

“We’d love people to come out and apply,” Mrs. Coniglio said. Kenston will be holding a bus driving open house at the bus garage on July 9. Prospective trainees will need a resume and driver’s license. A fingerprinting test is $60.

“It’s a good job for retirees and a perfect job for a mom who wants to make some extra cash,” she said. “A lot of bus drivers are moms who can be off with their kids in the summer.”

Mrs. Coniglio started as a bus driver. With the Kenston district five years, she still does some occasional bus driving and she won the 2019 Transportation Director of the Year.

“We’re in desperate need and we will train and help new drivers take their testing by the state,” Mrs. Coniglio said.

It takes an average of 35 to 40 hours of training, she said. Drivers attend a five-day instruction class by the Ohio Department of Education.

There are in-house drug screening, background checks and physicals, Mrs. Coniglio said. “We train them for their commercial driver’s license.”

School van drivers also are needed for which training is offered.

The school buses carry a standard 72 passengers but Kenston limits student riders to 54. “We don’t like to fill a bus with more than 54 students,” Mrs. Coniglio said.

Mike Morgan is transportation director at the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District. “It can be challenging,” he said of finding enough bus drivers. “One is often initially intimidated by driving a school bus. It’s a huge vehicle. They think, ‘I can’t drive a huge bus,’” he said.

Training is thorough, vigorous and extensive, Mr. Morgan said. One must go through practice and testing, and it can be intimidating, “But we’ll train you,” he said. New drivers take a five-day course with an on-board instructor.

They then test for their licenses and also shadow another driver on route. Then, new drivers are shadowed by an experienced bus driver. In addition, there is ongoing training each year with four hours required.

Every six years the drivers undergo three days of training. One of the locations is at the Auburn Career Center, Mr. Morgan said.

“If someone has had a previous charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, they cannot drive for us,” Mr. Morgan said. That rule goes back into the 1970s.

They only work when school is in session so some drivers have other jobs. “And some like having the summer off,” Mr. Morgan noted. Their hours of payment are stretched over the summer, so they receive a consistent income, he said.

“The pay rates are good,” he said. “The pay is commensurate with the responsibility of driving a school bus. And they like working with the kids,” Mr. Morgan said.

“There’s flexibility in the hours,” he said. Most drivers work an average of six to eight hours a day during the school year.

Kim Sass, Newbury School District transportation director, was unsure why school districts don’t get more applications for bus driving jobs. It could be that the training is rigorous and it takes minimally two to three months, Mrs. Sass said.

It has been a problem and there have been many times in which she has had to drive one of the buses. She started as a substitute bus driver and then was moved to supervisor in 2004. Even with declining enrollment in the school district, drivers have been needed, Mrs. Sass said.

Applicants do have to pay the $55 for a background check. “That is a lot to put on a person who needs a job,” she said. “They are putting in all these hours and getting no compensation.

“My thought is we should pay them to train which could bring in more people,” Mrs. Sass said. “I think we would get more drivers in to do that.”

Because of the shortage of drivers, they sometimes run out of drivers for athletic events or when drivers are sick.

In every district, drivers are needed to take small groups or individual students to programs in different locations.

Mrs. Sass also noted that the safety record of bus drivers in Ohio is excellent due to the training. “The supervisors make it work. It’s our job. When it comes to team players in Newbury, they are phenomenal.”

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