BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — There is a nationwide shortage of school bus drivers, and that issue has made its way to Kern County. Now one school district is reducing certain bus routes and increasing walking distances for students and families.
Up till the last school year, if you lived within one mile of your school in Bakersfield City School District, there were no bus stops close by and you had to walk to school or have someone drive you. Now, that radius has increased to 1.25 miles since there are not enough drivers.
“We have positions open, we’re ready to hire drivers, but there is a lack of applicants at this time,” said Rona Mellon, Director of human resources for BCSD.
Mellon said that’s because of the increase in the special education routes and a low number of drivers the district had to eliminate routes.
Due to the increased walking distance to school, it can also mean more students and families might have to walk on busier streets. The district is aware of that issue and is trying to do what it can to keep people safe.
“So, we have increased the number of crossing guards and positioned them at high-volume intersections across our community because the safety of our students is paramount,” said Mellon.
Julee Arnall, Assistant Director of Transportation, at BCSD said the district has about 14 vacant bus driver positions. The district says the training to become a bus driver takes about 6-8 weeks, but if you come with prior experiences, it’s a quicker process.
“It’s very difficult to get your license now, it takes many, many steps. School bus drivers are very highly trained in California, and it takes a little time to get your license,” said Arnall.
Candidates must go through a background check for public education employees with fingerprint clearance, need a clean DMV record, and be alcohol and drug tested.
There are many perks to being a bus driver; having nights, weekends and holidays off, and possibly summers off too, not needing to have high education qualifications because a high school diploma is usually enough, and getting to work with children.
“It’s a very rewarding career. There’s nothing better than having a 5-year-old run-up and say, I missed you this summer,” said Arnall.
The district didn’t mention pay but, that information is on the application.