School bus driver shortage continues despite potential solution
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -The school bus driver shortage continues in many districts across the state and it is leading to frustration for parents, students, and administrators as districts struggle to find drivers to get students back and forth to school and extracurricular activities.
That’s proving impossible in some districts including Twinsburg where superintendent Kathi Powers said they simply don’t have enough drivers for all of the district’s routes and they go into each day knowing students will be late for school.
“In the middle of it I have families that are very frustrated by the fact their child is not getting picked up on time and is not coming home from school on time,” Powers said.
As part of a letter to parents in the Twinsburg School District Powers spelled out the difficulties of hiring school bus drivers:
CANDIDATE MUST CLEAR BACKGROUND CHECKS WITH THE BUREAU OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION (BCI) AND WITH THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI);
CANDIDATE MUST STUDY AND TAKE FOUR (4) TESTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES (DMV) TO OBTAIN A TEMP CLASS B WITH PASSENGER AND SCHOOL BUS ENDORSEMENTS;
CANDIDATE MUST SCHEDULE ONBOARD TRAINING WITH OUR O.B.I. (On Board Instructor). THESE DATES AND TIMES CAN DIFFER WITH THE CANDIDATE’S AVAILABILITY;
DURING THIS TIME, A T-8 PHYSICAL/DRUG SCREENING IS SCHEDULED FOR THE CANDIDATE. THE CANDIDATE MUST PASS A RIGOROUS PHYSICAL IN ORDER TO DRIVE A SCHOOL BUS;
A DATE IS SCHEDULED WITH THE OHIO PRE-SERVICE CLASS (5 days). THE SCHEDULING OF THIS CLASS IS CONTINGENT UPON AVAILABILITY IN OUR REGION OF THE STATE. THE CANDIDATE MUST PASS THE FINAL TEST IN THIS CLASS TO PROCEED;
NEXT, THE CANDIDATE IS REGISTERED WITH TWO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ENTITIES. IT CAN TAKE WEEKS TO FINISH THIS REGISTRATION PROCESS AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. FORMS ARE COMPLETED AND SUBMITTED TO THE FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION (FMCSA);
AN APPOINTMENT IS SCHEDULED FOR THE CANDIDATE WITH THE OHIO STATE HIGHWAY PATROL TESTING CENTER TO TEST THE CANDIDATE FOR THEIR CLASS B CDL WITH PASSENGER AND SCHOOL BUS ENDORSEMENTS. ONCE THE CANDIDATE PASSES THE STATE TEST WHICH INCLUDES KNOWLEDGE OF THE PRE-TRIP AND PROFICIENCY IN DRIVING, THEY RECEIVE THEIR PERMANENT CDL WITH THE PROPER ENDORSEMENTS;
OUR O.B.I. MUST THEN SCHEDULE INSTRUCTION AND A DRIVING TEST WITH THE CANDIDATE BEFORE THEY ARE ALLOWED TO DRIVE WITH OUR STUDENTS ON BOARD. THE RESULTS OF THE DRIVING TEST ARE SENT TO THE STATE PRE-SERVICE INSTRUCTOR FOR APPROVAL AND FILING; AND
THE CANDIDATE IS APPROVED BY THE BOARD OF EDUCATION AS A BUS DRIVER AND IS THEN READY TO DRIVE STUDENTS ON A SCHOOL BUS FOR OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT.
A potential solution was put in place by the Ohio State legislature, last year at this time, as part of House Bill 110, that enables a significant amount of the training, which now requires problematic scheduling and travel, to be completed online.
Unfortunately, to this point, the state has not developed an online training opportunity for potential school bus drivers, but Matt Strickland, the Twinsburg Schools Business Manager has hopes that a program will be put in place soon.
“Just to cut out a lot of the travel and the out-of-pocket expenses that those folks in training would incur going sometimes two to three counties away,” he said.
Powers and Strickland would also like to see the state and federal governments find a way to eliminate some of the redundancy in the testing and approval process that can make the process last up to several months.
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