One year after a shortage of school bus drivers had the York County School Division scrambling, the school division has seen a staffing turnaround.
The school division currently has two driver vacancies, down from 13 at the same point last year, Superintendent Victor Shandor announced at Monday’s school board meeting.
YCSD employs two kinds of bus drivers: contracted drivers and substitute drivers. Contracted drivers cover permanent routes and have regular schedules for the 180-day school year. They also receive benefits. Substitute drivers work more flexible schedules, and do not necessarily have assigned routes. All newly hired drivers begin as substitutes, but they can be promoted to contracted status.
Last year’s shortage was not limited to YCSD. Nationwide, school divisions reported problems with fully staffing their bus driver fleets. School Bus Fleet Magazine, a trade publication for school transportation, reported two-thirds of administrators in the “Top 100 School District Fleets” said their staffing problems were at least “moderate.” One-quarter of the same administrators reported the problem as “severe.”
YCSD Associate Director of Transportation and Warehouse Operations James Lash said it was difficult to determine any one factor as the cause of the staffing turnaround.
“It’s kind of like [predicting] the weather,” Lash said. “It really changes constantly.”
Lash said the school division was cautiously optimistic about its driver staffing, and was preparing to graduate a class of new drivers from their required training session this week, with physicals to follow next week. Another class of prospective drivers is scheduled to begin training Monday.
YCSD contracted drivers earn $11.72 per hour.
“Right now, I’d say we’re in pretty solid shape,” Lash said.
Williamsburg-James City County Schools did not report any shortage of drivers last year, appearing to be an outlier from the national trend.
WJCC Senior Director for Operations Marcellus Snipes said the school division was in a similar position for the 2015-16 school year.
“We’re expecting to be OK,” he said.
Snipes said the bus fleet was experiencing the same issues it sees every year before school, including driver physicals, drivers taking medical leave and drivers accepting other jobs prior to the beginning of the school year.
“Sometimes, if someone gets a job in the summer after they leave in June, we might not know about it until that first day,” Snipes said.
Snipes added WJCC would have enough substitute drivers to cover any of those shortages for the school year.
Contracted WJCC bus drivers earn $12.92 per hour.