HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — With the new school year now in full swing, school districts across the country are having trouble hiring school bus drivers. That includes one Valley school district.
Harlingen CISD Transportation Director Luciano Rubio said the district currently has 25 school bus driver vacancies and those vacancies have had an impact on school bus operations.
“Normally we do have shortages but not to this degree,” Lucio said. “It affects our bus routes so we are limited on what we can do. Some of the routes we have to double up on because of the mere fact that we don’t have enough bus drivers.”
Each bus driver at HCISD transports up to 70 students every day, but the district is not the only one dealing with this problem. A survey conducted by HopSkipDrive shows 80% of school districts who responded have bus driver shortages.
According to Rubio, two factors that contribute to the shortage are the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the credentials required for potential bus drivers. HCISD is trying to make an effort to get more people to apply to become bus drivers.
“One of the things the school district did is raising the starting pay which really helps us,” Rubio said. “Also we have a lot of benefits that we offer our bus drivers and hopefully that entice them.”
But other Valley schools districts like McAllen ISD are fully staffed with 71 bus drivers, which is above their goal for this school year. MISD Transportation Director Erica Flores says they have been able to with drivers on how they can keep themselves and their passengers safe.
“I think patience is important and I think that is one of the reasons we have been successful with bringing in great bus drivers is because we have been patient and we have been trying to bring the right people on board,” Flores said.
But despite the shortage at HCISD, the districts says it will continue to operate the school school buses the best they can, and hope the can close the driver gap.
“Just like any other job, if you don’t have available resources, it’s hard to have that transportation,” Rubio said. “But I can assure you we are doing our best job to make sure every kid gets taken home from school and we pick up every kid.”
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