SHELDON—The Sheldon School District Board of Education approved bus routes for the 2019-20 academic year, a move that included reducing a bus route due to a shortage of bus drivers.
The board approved the measure at its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Superintendent Cory Myer said the district had advertised the opening for a bus driver position earlier this year but did not receive any applications. As a result, the district has five bus drivers instead of its usual six.
“That’s always concerning to me when we talk about reducing a route because we worry: Is that going to impact the other routes? Are they going to get longer? How are the bus drivers going to feel about that? Are they going to be OK with it?” Myer said.
He explained the move would only impact two of the bus drivers, whose routes will include picking up more students.
Myer said Mark Pritts, the district transportation director, had spoken with the bus drivers about the route changes. The drivers had told Pritts they thought reducing a route was a good solution.
School board vice president Susan Rensink asked if the route reduction would impact the district’s in-town bus routes. Myer said it would not.
Rensink also asked if the district will have a sufficient number of substitute bus drivers on hand. Myer said the district has the same number of substitute drivers it had last year, but since many of them farm, their availability depends on their farming schedules.
“When they’re in the field, their availability to drive is pretty limited. When they’re not in the field, then we have more drivers,” he said.
Another agenda item related to student transportation the board approved was increasing the pay rate for special education bus drivers to $27.81 an hour, which is what regular bus route drivers earn.
Myer said the previous pay rate for special education drivers was $22.15 an hour.
“That’s the same whether you drive a car or if you drive a bus,” he said. “I think there’s a different responsibility if you’re driving a car with one or two kids, which is what we currently do, versus you’re driving a school bus and picking up all of our special needs kids.”
Myer clarified that when special education drivers use a school car to transport students, the pay rate will still be $22.15.
The higher pay rate for driving a bus not only reflects the fact that drivers are transporting more students at a time but that they must receive separate certification to legally drive a bus, Myer said.