Officials with Gainesville City Schools plan to continue budgeting for a bus driver incentive program, which was introduced last year.
Designed to recruit and retain quality, safe bus drivers for its fleet, which is a challenge chronicled in school districts across the state, the incentive program has multiple layers.
To recruit new bus drivers, Gainesville City Schools offers hiring bonuses up to $1,000, and any currently employed driver can receive $500 for every referral (up to five) they make that produces a new hire.
The school system also is offering bonuses for current drivers ranging from $500 to $3,000 annually dependent upon years of experience working in Gainesville.
“The bus driver incentive plan has been very successful,” Superintendent Jeremy Williams said. “To be able to reward those who have been with us for a number of years but also being able to give a little bit of comfort to those coming on for first time.”
Drivers must be 18 years of age or older; retain a commercial driver’s license; complete 12 hours of classroom training; and perform six hours of driving a bus without students and six hours with students.
Since its implementation, six new bus drivers have been hired, with Gainesville City Schools paying $6,000 in hiring incentives, plus a $500 referral bonus related to one hire.
Gainesville City Schools now employs 45 bus drivers for its fleet of 66 buses. There are 37 fixed routes and nine routes serving special education students.
But there has been some turnover, too.
Jerry Castleberry, transportation director, said another 10 drivers are still needed to alleviate shortages.