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Henrico Schools bus driver woes continue: ‘We are not giving up’

Henrico County Public Schools
Posted at 4:41 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 18:16:11-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico County Public Schools held a job fair to attract applicants to fill dozens of nutrition services, bus driver and temporary instructional assistant positions.

HCPS Director of Pupil Transportation Jim Ellis told CBS 6 on Tuesday that he would like to hire at least 100 additional bus drivers during a nationwide driver shortage.

“Just about anything that ends in driver, they have a shortage,” Ellis explained. “We are certainly competing with truck drivers, the van drivers, and competing school systems and that everybody wants a driver. We are doing everything we can to keep our drivers with us.”

Mandela Sutton of Henrico County applied for a bus driver position at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center.

“I feel like I’m doing my little part to make things a little better for the kids,” Sutton stated. “I want to help out. The pandemic changed so many dynamics.”

Sutton said he needs to settle issues with his current driver’s license before he can earn his commercial driver’s license and drive for the public school system.

Ellis spoke about the common roadblocks that his team is discovering while hiring for the open positions.

“You’re looking at background checks. We also have to do a medical check which is not an easy one to get through. We do need you in good medical shape and those things are certainly hindrances,” he recalled. “We look at your driving record hard. You’re working with the most precious cargo and that driving record does take effect on whether you get hired or not.”

To compete for drivers, HCPS increased their hourly wage to $17.15 an hour with a $1,000 bonus for drivers applying without their CDL. Those with their CDL and endorsements could receive a $3,000 bonus.

The school system is also in need of 100 nutrition services staff members, according to a spokesperson.

"We are not giving up on anybody coming through the door," Ellis stated.

Ellis said approximately 30 applicants are in different phases of trainings and testing, which would alleviate the workload for his current employees.

“It would be a great ease for the drivers that are here,” he said. “Currently they are certainly doing the maximum effort they can give. They’re doing double runs on multiple layers and we couldn’t ask any more for them.”