The Gainesville City School System will implement an incentive program to recruit and retain quality bus drivers for its fleet after the board of education unanimously approved a proposal earlier this week.
Superintendent Jeremy Williams said Gainesville faces the same challenges that school districts across the nation are experiencing when it comes to finding safe, reliable bus drivers.
“We know there are pieces of our plan in other areas both in terms of recruitment and retention,” he added.
To recruit new bus drivers, GCSS will now offer hiring bonuses of 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.
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.
To retain reliable bus drivers, GCSS will begin offering bonuses for current drivers ranging from $500 to $3,000 annually dependent upon years of experience.
“I can only be hopeful,” Jerry Castleberry, transportation director, said about how the incentives will produce the results officials desire.
The Gainesville system currently employs 47 bus drivers for its fleet of 65 buses. There are 37 fixed routes and nine routes serving special education students.
Castleberry said an additional 10 bus drivers would alleviate shortages, particularly when drivers are out sick or on vacation.
“It’s a good first step,” he added. “I think it will show the drivers that we are concerned.”