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CNY schools face critical bus driver shortage

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A nationwide shortage of bus drivers is affecting CNY

A nationwide problem is hitting central New York school districts. As most students return to school full time, many schools are struggling to find enough bus drivers to fill their needs.

LaFayette Central School District Superintendent Jeremy Belfield said the district is ready to train anyone who’s interested, and they’re getting creative with their advertising.

"We have a bus parked at the town garage viewable from Route 81, as you drive through Lafayette on 81. We have a nice big banner that says please give us a call, send us an application."

Recruiters are offering perks. The company First Student, which provides busing for the Syracuse City School District, is advertising a $3,000 sign-on bonus for credentialed drivers, $1500 for those without a CDL, plus paid training.

First Student Regional Recruiter Robin Hansen said the company does have enough drivers day-to-day for the Syracuse City School District, but they are still actively looking for more as backups or to deploy to other locations in need.

"I think this could be the best part time job opportunity anyone ever thought of, but they've probably never considered it,” said Hansen. “I highly encourage them to consider it and see what a joy it can be working with the children and the other drivers we have on board."

Hansen said a lot of older drivers decided to retire during the COVID-19 pandemic, making the shortage worse.

Also, many districts are not able to social distance on busses this year.

Liverpool Central School District Superintendent Mark Potter said they’re keeping everyone in masks on buses and one student to a seat whenever possible to make things safer for drivers and students. Still, his district is looking to hire more substitute drivers.

"If we have our regular routes and then we have perhaps a field trip or a soccer game or something and we need someone to drive the soccer bus, we still need a sub to drive the regular routes, so it's pretty important for us," said Potter.

It’s a similar situation at Sandy Creek Central School District, where Superintendent Kyle Faulkner said the district has enough to drivers to do all their daily school and extracurricular runs, but just barely.

"Losing one or two people to quarantine or whatever could really change that, so it's a precarious situation for all of us,” said Faulkner. “We're doing the best that we can."