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Prairie increases bus driver salary to $23 an hour

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College Community School District implements $2 an hour increase for bus drivers in effort to recruit and retain workers

Prairie increases bus driver salary to $23 an hour
Prairie increases bus driver salary to $23 an hour
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Bus driving instructor Doug Johnson tests the brake lights on a school bus during a bus driver training session in July 2022, at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Buses are parked at Prairie Hill Elementary to shuttle students to the loading zone at College Community School District in Cedar Rapids in August 2021. (The Gazette)

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The College Community School District is increasing its starting salary for bus drivers to $23 an hour, a $2 per hour increase, in an effort to recruit and retain more drivers.

New hires also will receive a $500 sign-on bonus as just one recent initiative the district has launched in response to the national bus driver shortage, according to a news release Tuesday. All College Community employees who recruit a bus driver, van driver or bus aide to join the transportation department also receive a new recruitment bonus.

“Our goal is to ensure that every student who needs transportation has a ride to school each and every day,” Superintendent Doug Wheeler said.

College Community currently has 50 drivers working for the district transporting nearly 4,000 students a day. The district is in need of an additional 10 drivers.

Over the last four years, College Community has rolled out three bus driver salary increases, created an employee recruitment bonus program, increased bus driver benefit eligibility and added an additional paid holiday.

The Class B CDL license required to drive a school bus is not required to apply. New hires are compensated for completing on-the-job training and are reimbursed for half the cost of the license, according to a news release.

Bus drivers have a flexible schedule with part-time hours, paid holidays, summers off and eligibility for benefits.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the challenges of staffing are impacting all sectors of our economy,” Wheeler said. “Schools are also experiencing this unprecedented staffing challenge, which has been well documented in local and national media.”

“While College Community and Iowa, in general, tend to be experiencing fewer challenges than in other states, we have not been immune to the impacts of staffing shortages, especially in the area of transportation,” he said.

School districts across the nation are facing a shortage of school bus drivers. During the summer of 2020, the Cedar Rapids Community School District lost a fifth of its school bus drivers because of COVID-19.

In August, the Cedar Rapids district said it was facing challenging bus driver shortages, according to a news release. The district implemented several short and long-term strategies to close the staffing shortage gap, including combining routes and having mechanics trained and driving buses.

The Linn-Mar school district hosted a career fair in October also looking for school bus drivers — among other support staff. Their starting salary is $21.50 an hour plus paid training and up to $500 sign-on bonus.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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