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Utah school districts facing bus driver, lunchroom worker shortages

Posted at 5:11 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 19:18:59-04

SANDY, Utah — School districts across the nation are reporting bus driver shortages, and Utah is no exception.

The Alpine School District is searching for 30 bus drivers, while the Canyons School District is searching for 20 more bus drivers.

A spokesperson for the Murray School District said the district needs lunchroom workers and support staff such as classroom aids. Both Alpine and Canyons also need lunchroom workers. Many other districts across the state are facing similar vacancies that need to be filled in various areas.

The transportation director for Canyons School District said it is constant triage to keep everything flowing.

“It is difficult because having a shortage of bus drivers means there is just not enough drivers to drive every single route, so we have had to call on a lot of office staff, mechanics, myself included have driven every day this year so far,” Jeremey Wardle said.

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The district is having to pay a lot of overtime and offer comp time to make sure there are enough people to drive the buses, Wardle said. The employees who drive the buses are required to have their commercial driver's license and are trained to drive the school buses. Wardle said it is impacting the workflow.

“When we are out driving, we are not getting our regular jobs done,” he said.

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The Canyons School District is one of the largest employers in Sandy, employing about 6,000 people.

Many of the jobs in the district are seasonal, which can present a challenge — but this year has been more difficult, district spokeswoman Kirsten Stewart said.

“We struggle every summer to fill that shortage but this year, I think we are all coping with that post-pandemic labor shortage,” she said.

The district also needs to fill 45 classroom aid openings and 62 lunchroom worker positions. The district has raised the salaries for cashiers and kitchen workers, as well as raised bus drivers' wages to $21 an hour plus free commercial driver's license training. The district is also doing more marketing.

The Jordan School District is also "in desperate need" of school bus drivers, a spokesperson told FOX 13.

"We are down at least 15 drivers right now - even our mechanics and Director of Transportation are filling in and driving routes to get students to and from home and school," Sandra Riesgraf wrote in an email.

They have also raised starting pay for school bus drivers to more than $21 per hour.

And in the Davis School District, they have struggled to fill substitute bus driver, substitute bus assistant and substitute cook jobs. They posted videos on YouTube to attract applicants for both bus driving and lunchroom jobs. They still have more than 100 openings.

“I have never seen it this bad before, but I have never seen COVID before either and that might have something to do with it,” Wardle said.

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The best part of being a bus driver is the kids, Wardle said. He became a bus driver about 15 years ago.

“You get to see the kids after they have had their long day in school, and a lot of them want to kind of let their hair down and have fun with the bus driver, and that is what we are there for,” he said.

For more information on job openings in the Canyons District, click here.