COPLEY, Ohio (WJW) – With the new school year underway, the Copley-Fairlawn School District is asking parents if they would be willing to voluntarily remove their children from their bus route as the district attempts to compensate for a challenge faced by most every school district across Northeast Ohio.
Superintendent Brian Poe says challenges related to the shortage of bus drivers were complicated in his district by the resignation of two drivers last week and the expected medical leave for one other.
In addition, the district is also having difficulty finding substitute drivers.
“What we’ve asked parents to do, would they voluntarily choose to carpool their children, we have a google doc that we have sent to our parents, and we are seeing how many of our parents would do that,” said Poe.
In a letter to parents, the district explains that they may soon have to make some changes in the way they transport students.
“This includes continuing to consolidate bus routes, creating more group stops, increasing the time our students spend on a bus, potentially transporting only those students who live more than 1 mile from school or eliminating high school transportation. We are exploring ways to deal with this bus driver shortage and will communicate with our families promptly and thoroughly as this becomes necessary,” the letter explains.
“In an effort to avoid making some of these drastic changes, we are asking that families who do not absolutely require transportation to voluntarily remove their children from the bus route until this situation stabilizes,” the letter continues.
“This is not a monetary issue for us, this is a lack of workforce a lack of people that we can put behind the wheel and so our last resort would be to say we are not able to transport your child and to not run a route that day or that week that’s not something that we want to do,” said Poe.
The superintendent says the district is actively trying to recruit new drivers offering to train them at the district’s cost.
“The district will train you at district cost, it won’t be at the potential employee’s cost. you would go through training with our folks and then there’s a class that you need to take through the state of Ohio as well, but the district will pay for that,” said Poe.
The district offers a starting salary of $21 an hour with benefits for full-time drivers and the opportunity to earn overtime driving to and from sports events or extracurricular activities.
Poe said there are discussions about other incentives the district might offer as they compete with other school districts across Ohio in need of drivers.
Poe says the real benefit of driving for the district is knowing that you are playing a very important role in the education process.
“You know one of the most important things we can do other than keeping students safe, keeping them happy, keeping them fed, is providing an education. As a bus driver, you are the first person likely that they are going to see from a school perspective, and as a driver, you are the last person that student is going to see at the end of the day so those are vital people in the educational process and you can really truly offer a lot develop solid relationships as you take those students to school and back home,” said Poe.
Parents are asked to respond to the district by the end of the day Friday.
In the meantime, Poe says anyone who might be interested in driving a bus or a school district van is urged to call (330)664-4800.
“We will get you immediately into an interview,” said Poe.