EastSide Charter School boss Aaron Bass says the institution is struggling to find bus drivers. ‘There’s a labor and inventory shortage at the same time we’re increasing enrollment and hiring,’ Bass said. ‘We’ve been looking like crazy for everybody you can think of: janitors, cafeteria workers, psychologists, counselors, bus driver’
A Delaware charter school will pay parents up to $700-per-year to drive their own children to school as it grapples with a shortage of bus drivers.
EastSide Charter School in Wilmington said it will to offer the incentive to parents for the upcoming school year after struggling to find adequate staffing across the board.
‘There’s a labor and inventory shortage at the same time we’re increasing enrollment and hiring,’ Aaron Bass, chief executive at the school, told the Washington Post.
‘We’ve been looking like crazy for everybody you can think of: janitors, cafeteria workers, psychologists, counselors, bus drivers. Even if you have all the money in the world, you can’t get what you need.’
The $700 payment will apply per child. That means a family with five children could profit by $3,500 – or nearly $300 a month – for chauffeuring their own children to and from school.
It comes as industries across the board struggle to find staff amid a nationwide labor shortage driven by unemployment incentives, and pandemic-induced fears over returning to work.
The average Delaware school bus driver makes about $37,000 a year – or about $3,080 a month, according to Salary.com.
The school district’s inability to attract bus drivers has been exacerbated by the CARES Act’s pandemic unemployment assistance program, which provides unemployed Delawareans with a weekly $300 compensation boost in addition to regular state benefits.
The incentive is set to expire on September 4.
EastSide Charter School in Wilmington said it was forced to offer the incentive to parents for the upcoming school year after struggling to find adequate staffing across the board
A bus driver shortage is also plaguing schools in Pennsylvania. The Pittsburg Public Schools district pushed back its start date as it struggles with a shortage of about 425 drivers
But while the school districts face a shortage of drivers and staff in general, EastSide parent Carla Hurley said she’d spend the money on after-school snacks for her children, who are in the fifth and third-grades.
‘It’s unreal,’ Hurley said of the shortage. ‘It has been [a challenge], because we’re trying to be creative about it, but with the incentive, now that we’re picking them up, I don’t have to take them to aftercare. I’m going to take them home, and that’ll be a huge savings for us.’
Carla Hurley is among parents at a Wilmington, Delaware, charter school who’ll be paid to drive their children to and from school. The mom of two could make up to $1,400 this curricular school year through the incentive.
Previously, Hurley would drop her children off at school but they would catch a bus home after attending an afterschool program.
However, with remote working, Hurley now works from home as an administrative specialist with a more flexible schedule that allows her to make the 15-minute drive to school each afternoon.
‘Everyone I talked to about it thought it was a great idea,’ she said.
The school is still offering the option of bus rides for those who need it.
Families participating in the program must self-attest that they or someone else will drop off and retrieve their children on time throughout the school year. Students opted into the program will not have the option of riding a bus during the year.
Transportation funds are made available to students enrolled in public schools in Delaware, and the school is set to use those same funds to help ease the cost of alternative transport options for families.
EastSide is not the only school struggling with filling jobs.
The Pittsburgh Public Schools district said it would delay the start of its school years from August 24 to September 8 to sort out its transport woes – and also to ease the burden of students having to wear masks during the hottest days of summer.
The shift of our start date will provide the time necessary for the transportation strategies we have put in place to take hold as we welcome students back,’ said superintendent Anthony Hamlet.
‘We are also listening to the concerns raised by our staff related to the impact traditionally high temperatures in August have on our facilities now coupled with the use of masks. It is our hope this challenge would be lessened in September, allowing everyone a positive start in the new school year.’
Right now, transportation carriers are short about 425 drivers, resulting in a seat gap of about 10,996 seats for students in Pittsburgh. The district is proposing expanded walk zones to help offset the gap.
Meanwhile, Nevada’s Washoe County School District said in June that it was facing an ‘extreme shortage’ of bus drivers and would provide signing incentives of up to $2,000 for new employees.
The district offered existing employees a bonus of up to $1,000 in an attempt to lure them back to the driver’s seat.
In the United States, the unemployment rate for July was 5.4 percent. And in the week ending August 7, about 375,000 people filed unemployment claims, according to the Department of Labor.