School districts across the Northland struggle to find bus drivers

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As summer vacation is coming to a close many kids are preparing for the first day of school. Likewise school districts across the Northland are scrambling to prepare for kids, because some schools don’t have enough bus drivers.

Getting on the bus is the first part of any kids day for school, but several school districts might have longer rides. Nathan Berg, the Transportation Supervisor for the School district of Barnum and Willow River, said the district needs to make an unpopular decision to solve the issue of too few bus drivers.

“Are we going to seek parents, are we going to have pick up points? Are we going to close our our district borders or just ask them to bring their kids here?” Berg said. “It take a village. We have so much community support in both Barnham and Willow River. We asked the community to do a lot.”

Berg said that right now there are only five school bus drivers, and eight busses. Even though some of the staff have commercial driver’s licenses, the school cannot rely on this temporary measure.

“We are appreciative. But now we’re really having to come on and say, Please, we know this is what we’re up against. We need help,” Berg said.

School districts across the Northland into Wisconsin are also struggling with finding bus drivers. Craig Golembiewski, the Northwood School district board clerk said that people have suggested consolidating bus routes, but it’s not a viable option.

“We can’t even go from 5 to 4 routes,” Golembiewski said. “School starts just after 8:00am, it gets done at 3:30pm. a 5 bus route is an hour. If you consolidate around all it’s expanding them other roads even longer. You don’t want to get your kids home at 6:00pm at night.”

For some school districts kids might need to ride the bus for two or three hours depending on how few drivers there are. And there are not always enough backup drivers available.

“We actually made it a requirement of a custodial position to have a CDL. So at least that could be a backup driver.” Golembiewski said. “We’ve had a couple of our teaching staff that have stepped up to the plate as backup drivers as well. They went and got their CDL, but it’s been a constant challenge.”

However, Many school districts will help provide training and assist with getting your commercial driver’s license. Pat Gillen, the Transportation Supervisor for Superior School district said that you can be as young as 18 years old to drive a school bus.

“The problem is you’re working early in the morning and you’re working late in the afternoon.” Gillen said. “You also have to be very technical, because not only are you driving a bus, you’re working with the children, you’re driving the most important resource in the county.”

For more information about commercial driver’s license in Minnesota you can look here. For more information about getting your commercial driver’s license in Wisconsin you can look here. Also for a story about how fulfilling driving a bus was for 19-year old driver Dom Serano, you can read more here.