TURNER — The Turner, Leeds and Greene school district has a bus driver shortage. RSU 52 administrators are looking to hire a few bus drivers to become substitutes.

The pay: $15.28 an hour. The hours: school days, split shifts of three hours in the morning, three hours in the afternoon. There’s no work on the holidays, weekends and the summer.

Typically, substitute drivers are kept busy four out of five school days a week, said Deb Roberts, RSU 52 business manager.

The district is so motivated to find and hire drivers, it’s offering to pay for the $70 criminal background check required by the Maine Department of Education.

And it’s planning to offer an adult education course in January which teaches participants how to drive one of those big, yellow buses and get the special Class B license needed to operate one.

“It’ll probably be taught by one of our drivers,” Roberts said. “We want to keep it in-house.”

This year, hiring bus drivers has been especially challenging, she said, adding that other school districts are also looking to hire drivers.

On its website, the Oxford Hills School District announces that it’s hiring.

“Part of the reason is the folks we had for substitutes, they’ve done a great job; we’ve hired them as regular drivers,” Roberts said. “There aren’t people coming in the pipeline.”

The district has just enough drivers to cover the daily routes, but needs substitute drivers to take students to games and cover when someone is sick.

Because of the shortage, “sometimes we have to double up on a run,” Roberts said.

A few extracurricular trips have have been canceled because there were no drivers.

“But we try not to do that,” she said.

On days when drivers are needed, “we’ve had to hire a private contracting company to do the trips as a last resort,” Roberts said.

The district doesn’t want to do what Auburn and Lewiston do — contract out bus drivers to private companies.

For years, Lewiston has contracted with Hudson Bus Lines. This year, Auburn contracted with Northeast Transport.

“Our district looked at it three years ago,” Roberts said. “We decided not to go that route. There was concern from the community and selectmen about giving up that local control. The savings would come by drivers getting lower pay and less benefits.”

Instead of contracting out, the district found savings through consolidated bus routes, she said.

Qualities of a good school bus driver include a clean driving record and “no OUI’s,” said RSU 52 transportation specialist Stewart Mason. Drivers need “to be able to deal with 60-some-odd kids going down the road,” he added.

Mason said he likes driving a bus and “being out and about.”

Those interested should call the superintendent’s office at 252-1000, ext. 1.


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