KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many school districts across the Kansas City area are looking for bus drivers, with many say they are constantly hiring even if they don’t have a critical shortage right now.

The Park Hill School District is also in the middle of a push to find more drivers either outside the district or from within its existing employee roster.

“Short-term, we’re looking at filling those routes with internal people here in Park Hill,” said District Director of Communication Services Kelly Wachel. “We’ve had about 30 people step forward to help and support in that area.”

The District and school bus vendor First Student have created hybrid positions where existing district staff can be employed by both entities. They drive a bus before or after their educational duties begin or end, helping fill open routes while earning extra cash.

“They’re going to do double duty and getting paid to do double duty,” Wachel said.

Wachel says there are 12 people working their way through the roughly three-week training program to further bolster the ranks. The drivers who get through all the training can earn a $2,000 signing bonus if they stay on the job long enough from First Student. The Park Hill District pays an additional $500 every month when drivers have perfect attendance. The District says drivers have already cancelled scheduled time off to get the monthly bonus.

Still, the shortage persists and if more drivers don’t sign up, Wachel says more changes could follow.

“Short-term solutions that we’re looking at include radius, how far do we expand past our schools where we pick up students,” Wachel said. “We’re also looking at what do school start times mean for changing the number of tiers of routes that we have. That would be a very drastic change that we don’t foresee happening.”

Many routes are already tiered, allowing the same driver to deliver two or three routes full of students to different schools because of staggered start times.

That’s why one of Heather Ramsey’s sons has to be at his bus stop at 6:30 am for a 7:10 am start time while the other one can sleep in substantially later.

“My other son gets picked up an hour and a half later,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey says knowing how stretched the district is for drivers inspired her to try to help.

“I actually went and interviewed last year to be a bus driver, but it was just the schedule,” Ramsey said. “You have to be there are five o’clock in the morning.”

Ramsey says she couldn’t make that work, even with the option to bring her sons with her to work on the bus. It’s part of the reason Wachel says about half of the drivers who start training don’t finish it.

Wachel says the district will re-evaluate its school bus driver situation and any other decisions as the school year goes on.

If you’re looking for information about how you can become a school bus driver, click here.

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