JACKSON – The Jackson School District has increased the base pay for school bus drivers to $30 per hour to combat what administrators said is a nationwide and local bus driver shortage that has created an unprecedented staffing crisis.
Board of Education members passed a resolution approving the change at their Feb. 16 meeting. The previous base rate was $22.67 per hour.
Administrators said the district’s goal in making the change was to create a competitive rate of pay to stabilize staffing levels and to provide competitive compensation. The school district is also looking to hire additional van aides and the salary for that position was increased to $18.50 per hour.
Business Administrator Michelle Richardson said, “If we can’t get students to school, they can’t learn, and our ability to do that consistently is at risk due to this crisis. This change will allow us to recruit and retain qualified, dedicated staff members who are vital to the operations of this district.”
Board of Education President Michael Walsh said, “We needed to put ourselves in a position to replenish our staff to get back to a place where we can operate efficiently and consistently. Our drivers love our students and take their responsibilities seriously, and we need to ensure Jackson is a place they want to work and to stay.”
Administrators said they are actively seeking to add 30 drivers to alleviate daily challenges to meet the needs of the district. Drivers routinely need to cover double runs in one school, which results in pick-up and drop-off delays, and the district has had to limit runs for trips, athletics and activities.
“It’s a scramble every day, and on some days it feels almost impossible to get every child where they need to be,” Interim Director of Transportation Kristopher Soto said. “We do our best every day, but we can only do so much with the numbers we have. Something has to change.”
Soto said the job has hours that are guaranteed and flexible. There are also opportunities for additional work on nights and weekends, and during the summer for special trips and programs.
“Our drivers make special connections that have long-lasting, positive impacts in their lives,” Soto said. “It is a great job that really makes a difference. We hope people consider joining us so we can be in a better position to support our students.”
Additional information is available at www.jacksonsd.org/drivers or by calling the Transportation Department at 732-833-4614.