Down 100: Norfolk schools desperate for bus drivers, offering incentives

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk Public Schools normally operates 320 big yellow buses with 218 contracted drivers.

The numbers are a lot different lately.

A bus driver shortage seen nationwide has also crept up in Hampton Roads.

10 On Your Side sat down with Norfolk officials to talk about how they’re trying to bring drivers back to the buses so they don’t have to change bus routes. As of Thursday, the district has roughly 100 drivers on any given day responsible for about 8,000 students.

In order to keep operations running as smoothly as possible, school officials tell us bus mechanics and dispatchers have had to step up and fill the gaps. WAVY News spoke with veteran driver Myrna Banks who says two drivers could be doing the routes of six drivers on any given day.

Drivers call it a “triple run” — and it used to be extremely rare.

“Just like the rest of the nation, we are hearing the same thing. The parents who want to get their kid to school on time, and in a timely fashion, and we are not able to do it,” said Banks.

“We are very thankful for the drivers we do have and who do not mind going back and doing another triple run to get the kids to and from school.”

Banks has worked nearly a decade with Norfolk Public Schools and tells us she’s never seen the bus barn this short-staffed.

“Not this desperate — not this particular desperate. We do have occasions, years come where we need a handful of extra drivers, and we usually get about 20 in and we can stabilize pretty good. But this year? We need more than twenty safe drivers,” Banks said.

Andrew Davenport, a Norfolk Public Schools human resources generalist, tells us the shortage is partly because of the pandemic.

“The COVID did have a huge impact on the numbers that we have as far as school bus drivers,” Davenport explained.

This is why they’ve started offering more incentives and higher pay.

“Any individuals who don’t have any school bus driver experience, at all, can come in and we will go through and get these CDL licenses and certifications and we pay to have that done,” said Davenport.

Davenport even adds that they’re extremely flexible with people, even parents, looking to drive the buses. Davenport says if you make the call saying you’re interested, they will find a spot with your available hours.

“We offer different positions. We suggest that they give us a call and tell us what their situation is and we can match the job with the person,” Davenport said.

The school is hosting another job fair to draw in not just bus drivers, but other staff members. There are still requirements applicants need to meet to work with children.

Job Fair Information: Friday, November 19 | 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. | 966 Bellmore Avenue Norfolk, VA 23504

New Hires

  • Receive $250 Bonus when you obtain your CDL Licensure or provide documentation that you have already earned it.
  • Receive $250 first-time new hire bonus.
  • Receive up to $480 for completing all required CDL training and obtaining your Class B CDL with P & S Endorsements. In addition, you will be reimbursed the $20 fee for the background check.
  • Part-Time Hours Available (AM and PM shifts)

All Drivers

  • Receive $750 stipend for additional sanitizing duties.

All Employees

  • Receive $250 bonus for recruiting a school bus driver candidate who successfully completes all required training and is hired full-time.

You can find full salary and wage information here.

Requirements for being an NPS bus driver include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • At least 21 years old
  • Valid driver’s license for at least 5 years
  • DMV record will be reviewed
  • CDL preferred, but not necessary, training is provided
  • Background check
  • Be subject to a drug screen & physical

If you’d like to apply for a job with Norfolk Public Schools, click here.

Is your bus late? Parents can track their child’s school bus by clicking here.

Stay with WAVY.com for more local news updates.

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