Monday is the big day for the total eclipse, but it is also the day that CMS bus drivers will begin practice runs of their routes so any kinks can be worked out. Bus drivers are still needed but district officials say they are in much better shape than this time last year.
At a press conference Wednesday, Janet Thomas, the district’s transportation director says she still needs to fill 35 positions. That’s a big improvement from a year ago when there were 100 driver vacancies. Thomas says every bus will have a driver when school starts on August 28, but some will be substitute drivers. To attract more applicants, pay was raised by about $1,000. Starting salaries are now just over $12,000.
Thomas says they also added 26 buses this year because of changes to the magnet program student assignment plan. More buses and drivers will be needed next year when the larger neighborhood school assignment plan kicks in.
“We are planning now for what it might look like when you look at grandfathered students and the number of new programs and new schools that will open,” Thomas said. “That will be an increase but it’s too early to tell.”
Thomas says another challenge is hiring bus mechanics. She still needs 14.
“Diesel mechanics are hard to come by and other companies are looking for the same people and are paying a lot more. When you have a position at $17 an hour and the going rate is above $20, we’re not very competitive with them,” Thomas said.
Thomas says she is happy that for the first time this year, all buses will have four interior cameras installed. She says the cameras’ recordings will help them deal with incidents involving students, cases of unauthorized people on a bus or a driver’s behavior.
“It is against the law to drive with a cell phone and if we get a report that someone is driving with a cell phone, we can verify or disqualify that,” she said.
She says all bus camera recordings will be saved for at least 30 days.