Posted by Julie Slama | [email protected]
As the school year approaches, many students and their families may wonder who will open the door and greet them at the start of the school year when they get on a big yellow school bus.
Also, some school districts in the area may be surprised when websites and signs are posted in the Salt Lake Valley to advertise bus driver locations.
As of July 1, the Canyons School District had 40 open bus driver positions, or 18% of the staff, carrying approximately 20,000 students. In addition, 35 of the 55 childcare places were free.
Canyons School District Transportation Director Jeremy Wardle has worked in the industry for the past 14 years, working his way up from driving while graduating from college.
“There is always turnover,” he said. “I think the difference this year is COVID and its aftermath.”
Wardle said a large number of the district’s drivers are pursuing second careers, but with the added protection during the COVID-19 pandemic and potential driver health issues, there were simply not enough drivers returning.
He also said the area has changed, which means that more drivers are needed to transport school children.
“Twenty years ago, Draper was more farmland than houses, and now it’s the exact opposite; We have seen an enormous increase in population not only in our district, but also in other districts. We are becoming more of an urban environment. It seems to be the same in all districts of the country, ”he said.
The Jordan School District also has a need for drivers.
“We are always short bus drivers; There is a high turnover rate in every school district in Salt Lake County, or probably the state, ”said spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf. “And we’re a growing school district, so we have more and more routes.”
To attract more drivers, Canyons increased their salaries to $ 21.19 an hour for the starting salary. The salary for the nursing staff is $ 14 an hour. Wardle said there are part-time and full-time positions for the 180-day school year and full-time contracts come with perks.
Murray School District spokesman Doug Perry said the Murray district may also have some drivers off at any given time, along with an equal number of food service workers and administrators; the district also increased pay for these positions.
“We only have about a dozen regular bus drivers and about four dozen lunch workers and a few dozen caretakers in total, so our shortage can be two-three positions from these three groups at any time, which is pretty manageable,” he said.
Bus drivers in the Murray District pay between $ 22 and $ 25 an hour; Nutrition service, $ 13 to $ 18 per hour; and custodians cost between $ 11 and $ 15 an hour.
The Granite School District continues to see “traditional job openings” in transportation and oversight departments, as well as class and school aides, said spokesman Ben Horsley.
“Part-time para-professionals are still hard to find in this economy,” he said. “One strange challenge is the amount of open school psychologist positions that we still have at this point in the year.”
The starting salary for bus drivers is about $ 21 an hour; $ 18 for custodians and $ 11 for hourly para-professionals.
In canyons, commercial drivers licenses are required before bus drivers take the wheel, but there is free in-house training and testing, Wardle said. Drivers are also expected to do an “overview” before driving, which ranges from checking the brakes to light cleaning. Eight mechanics in the staff are responsible for repairs.
There is also training for the position from first aid and CPR to student management and emergency evacuation. Participants will also have additional training to work with students with special needs and learn how to load and buckle up a wheelchair safely, he said.
Flexibility and schedules similar to those of schools attract many employees to the position. Wardle, when he was a driver, was able to learn between routes, and said the position would be attractive to parents who start and finish their day around the same time as their children and have the same school vacation schedule.
“The kids are the highlights of the drivers. You get to know them. You’ve seen her from kindergarten through high school. Some of them work into their early 80s because they love the kids, ”he said.
While Riesgraf said the Jordan School District has “moderate” needs for food services, Canyons District plans to hire 34 kitchen staff and 23 school cashiers for the upcoming school year, said Sebasthian Varas, director of food services.
Entry wages increased for these positions in canyons with a starting salary of $ 15.50 an hour for kitchen staff who typically prepare and cook meals and then thoroughly clean the kitchen; and $ 12.16 per hour for cashiers responsible for ensuring that student meals meet USDA meal refund guidelines. There are opportunities for advancement, he added.
Canyons positions include training in equipment, first aid, and district politics; every employee is responsible for having a grocery trade permit. Ideal candidates should be able to follow directions, work in teams, meet some of the physical demands of the job, and have a high school diploma or a GED or equivalent, Varas said.
He said this is an ideal position for people looking for daytime jobs, and parents in particular.
“When your children are in school, you work during school hours and you are home when they are home. You don’t work on weekends or bank holidays and we will provide you with lunch and you make some extra money, ”he said. “It is fun. You come into contact with the students, which I think is fantastic. This is a great opportunity to change a student’s life. I think one thing we learned from the pandemic is how important the food service workers are. So if you really want to make a difference in someone’s life, come and work with us. It’s hard work, but it’s a very rewarding position as we know we’re feeding the students. “