STATEWIDE – School districts across the state are struggling to find qualified bus drivers.
Even one superintendent who has a full complement of drivers says his school district is operating on the edge.
Despite the lowest statewide unemployment rate in nearly 40 years, RSU 19 was able to find enough bus drivers, so far. But the superintendent says he hopes there doesn’t come a day when too many call in sick.
“It’s always been right on the edge. You know certain communities fare better. You know, depending on the network they have. I know some of my peers are struggling,” RSU 19 Superintendent Mike Hammer said.
“Not only is a special license needed to drive a bus, but it also takes a special person,” he said.
“You just have to have an amazing amount of patience. You know, a lot of skill to be able to multi-task. Focus on the road. And focus on what’s behind you in the mirror,” he said.
RSU 19 employs nearly 40 full-time bus drivers.
“Maybe it’s because of the agricultural area, there’s some people who drive around this area. We’re lucky,” Hammer said.
And while the superintendent has a license qualifying him to drive a bus, that hasn’t happened yet.
Hammer noted that a bus driver is one of the people in any school district who often has more contact with students than most of the educators.
“The first person they see in the beginning of the day. You want them to say ‘Hi’ and be supportive. And they see a lot of stuff a lot our other employees don’t see,” he said.