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School bus drivers are needed

by Annette Beard | September 20, 2022 at 9:45 a.m.

The Pea Ridge School District currently has open positions for school bus drivers, according to school superintendent Keith Martin, who said many districts are experiencing shortages of bus drivers. He said that ideally, Pea Ridge could use three more drivers, and that larger districts are facing much greater shortages.

School bus routes have changed with the increase in houses and new subdivisions.

"We're experiencing a shortage of drivers," Kevin Ramey, assistant school superintendent told the School Board members at their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 12. "We're actively working to get people certified. We're trying to get back to normal routes ... we have new subdivisions and are seeing new riders in different areas."

The part-time job offers benefits, including insurance, Martin said.

The regular routes take about an hour and a half in the morning and again in the afternoon. Times for driving a route are mornings from 6:15 to 8 a.m. and afternoons from 3 to 4:45 p.m. Substitute drivers are always needed.

A bus driver is contracted for 179 days of driving paid over 24 pay periods (every two weeks), according to Martin, starts at $11,844.13 with annual increases. Pay is supplemental pay that "often will not affect retirement or other benefits."

Bus drivers receive all benefits of a public school employee, including paid sick leave, personal leave, summers off with continued pay, Arkansas Teacher Retirement System after five years of service, health insurance, life insurance and disability insurance.

The license qualifications are a Class B Commercial Drivers License with a Passenger endorsement and a School bus endorsement. Drivers must be air brake qualified and pass a physical. Drivers must be at least 21 years of age and be able to pass a background check having no felony convictions or child maltreatment.

He said the buses are more stable than a 15-passenger van and are similar to driving a large recreational vehicle. The school offers assistance with obtaining the CDL.

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