MESA, AZ — Mesa Public Schools resume classes on Tuesday, August 6th and the district will start the 2019-2020 school year off short-handed when it comes to bus drivers. The district has a shortage of 50 bus drivers.
"It sounds like something that could be a good way to get my foot in the door.... there's nine other people so 10 of us total," says Chaseton Harper, a newly hired bus driver who says he's making $14.72 per hour.
Associate Superintendent of Human and Capital Resources Shaun Holmes says 20 percent, or one out of every five bus drivers, last year was never hired, and about 80 positions went unfilled. He believes part of the reason for the shortage is that those who meet the requirements to be a school bus driver also qualify for more lucrative opportunities.
"If you hold a commercial driver's license, there are much higher paying jobs out there if you are willing to do the work," Holmes said.
The district will provide the training needed for a CDL Class B license through a three-week training course for someone wanting to become a school bus driver with their district.
After last year's shortage, MPS created a plan to change school start and end times in order to eliminate 50 bus driver positions and not have such a dire need.
"We've adjusted start times to schools to reduce the number of routes we need, but we still face a shortage of about 50 bus drivers this year," Holmes said.
For a starting new bus driver like Harper, he looks at his new employment for the longevity.
"This is gonna make it easy to cover my bills, cover my cost of living not only am I going to be doing a good job serving our public students I'm also gonna be able to take care of myself, so it's definitely a plus," he said.
Harper says he has a clean driving record and knows the Valley well from a previous job that required him to drive around the Valley. At 21 years-old, he says he has a youthful spirit but also knows he needs to be firm in order to make sure every bus ride remains a positive one for every child.
"You are the first person the kids interact with at the start of the day. So you want to make a good impression, be a role model like we were talking about earlier and just make sure that their day isn't gonna be hindered because of a bad situation that happened on the bus," he adds.
In order to bring in new bus driver candidates, the school district increased some pay for those already in the district and increased the starting pay by $1.50/hour.
Mesa is far from the only district struggling to fill its open bus driver positions. Almost every district in the East Valley is facing the same dilemma.
Mesa Public Schools sent letters home to parents and guardians regarding the change in start/end times. To learn more, you can go visit this school bell schedule.
If you are interested in a job with the Mesa Public Schools as a bus drivers, here is the page with more information.
The Kyrene School District is also hiring drivers.
You can attend their job fair at the following:
Saturday, September 14
8 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Aprende Middle School, 777 N Desert Breeze Blvd E #2, Chandler, AZ 85226
Interested people will have the opportunity to drive a bus on a closed course and we will be conducting interviews onsite. Those interested can RSVP at 480-541-1705.