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School bus drivers wanted across Connecticut

With school bus driver staffing down by anywhere from 5% to 25% across Connecticut, the state is developing creative ways to recruit.

OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. — With more than 1,000 vacancies for school bus drivers statewide, the Connecticut School Transportation Association is holding a weeklong bus driver recruitment that got underway Monday.

With school bus driver staffing down by anywhere from 5% to 25% across Connecticut, the state is developing creative ways to recruit.

"We sent out letters to every CDL operator out there and ask them if you're retired how would you like to come back and drive one of these beautiful buses out here," said Tony Guerrera Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

RELATED: School bus drivers needed in all Connecticut communities

That resulted in over 200 driver applications, he says. And the state is also streamlining the application process, which includes background checks.

"It used to take up to six weeks to complete the background checks, now it takes 24 to 27 hours," said Sibongile Magubane, the Commissioner of DMV.

The total application process now takes between one and two weeks as opposed to six weeks prior to this year.

"Those kids they are the most precious cargo in the world and not only am I depending on taking care of them but the parents, the school system, your town," said Marie Illingworth, a driver for Student Transportation of America.

Bus companies said they are now more hopeful they will turn the corner with the number of applicants.

Meanwhile, drivers say they love the opportunity to be the first and last person each school day to communicate with children.

"I have kids that show me their report cards before they show their parents or I will go to a restaurant after they graduate and they see me and give me a big hug," said Ebony Guertin, another driver for Student Transportation of America.

And what has attracted many drivers to this industry is its flexibility.

"If you just want drive mornings and afternoons and you wanna drive maybe 4 to 4 1/2 or five hours a day, that's great," said Jon Hipsher, the Chief Operating Officer for M&J Bus, Inc. "It's ideal. If you're looking for something that's going to get you closer to 40 hours, there's plenty of athletics, plenty of field trips."

RELATED: New Haven school district holds recruitment fair to end teacher shortage

The average starting pay is close to $20 per hour with most Connecticut school bus companies.

Driver shortages, companies say, started before COVID was even a thing.


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