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Bus driver shortage proves to be a national problem, but in Bell County, it's not a huge issue

Posted at 7:27 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 20:27:36-04

It’s an issue Taina Maya with the Killeen Independent School District describes as inevitable- bus driver shortages.

“We're always hiring bus drivers,” she said. “As is every other district throughout the state because there's a national bus driver shortage.”

As of Friday, she says the district has 71 bus driver job openings.

It’s a number she’s not surprised at, because out of the 20,000 students who are eligible to ride the bus, only 37% of them actually do.

“We have five extra bus drivers on standby that are able to assist throughout as needed,” Maya explained. “But it's really a result of the pandemic and offering virtual learning that we've been able to consolidate our riders and our routes.”

Things aren’t out of the ordinary for those more east at Belton ISD.

In a statement released to 25 News, officials said the district currently has nine openings, which they say is normal. On any normal year, Belton ISD officials said they’ll have about five to 10 openings posted.

However, as more students come back to school for in-person learning, the demand for drivers may rise again.

“I think we're in a good spot,” said Tad Hendrickson, routing specialist at KISD. “We do know that we are getting some more students coming back, and that's where the drivers really come in.”

It’s going to take an army to transport the students. I mean, just ask those at Temple ISD.

According to its website, the transportation department is the second largest department in the district, employing 80 people.

Those at KISD say they will be up to the task when most of its students decide to ride the bus again.

“We start looking at those numbers again,” Hendrickson said. “We'll ask [drivers] again, 'Give me a daily run of what your numbers are,' so we can start looking at additional buses in the area and see if we can cross-load before we add another bus to the route”

As far as COVID-19 goes, Maya says their safety protocols on the bus or in the district haven’t changed, even if the statewide mask mandate did.

“Our seats do accommodate three elementary students per row,” she explained. “We have on some buses that situation happening, but it's very far and few between, and on top of that they're all wearing a mask.”

She says if you are looking to be a bus driver at KISD, pay starts at $14.26 an hour, and the district offers training courses before you start.