A shortage of bus drivers and monitors among Oswego School District 308 contractors has prompted changes to the district’s bus routes, days before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
A letter to district families from Chief Financial Officer John Petzke, described the driver and monitor shortage as “extreme.”
“SD308′s transportation contractors are experiencing an extreme shortage of drivers and monitors this school year,” Petzke wrote. “This driver shortage has impacted bus routes.”
As a result of the shortage, the district has consolidated routes by extending and combining existing routes.
“Due to this consolidation, there may be more students on a bus, as well as possibly longer bus rides,” Petzke continued.
He also confirmed, however, that the district’s consolidation plan does not require the combination of elementary, junior high and high school students on the same bus.
More than 17,000 OSD 308 students are set to return to their classrooms and start the new school year on Wednesday, Aug. 18.
Director of Communications and Public Relations Theresa Komitas said in an email to the Ledger that the shortage was not known to the district when routes were originally published.
“At the time we first published the routes this information was not known,” Komitas said. “Once this was communicated to the district, the routes were adjusted.”
While the situation “may be less of a problem by September,” Petzke told parents that the district remains in communication with its transportation vendors.
“We are in constant contact with our vendors to explore all avenues possible to resolve this situation and have been able to use our SD308 drivers to pick-up these shortages through route consolidation,” he wrote, adding, “Please know that we remain deeply committed to the safe and careful transportation of each and every student.”
A look at OSD 308′s job openings as of Aug. 16, shows that 50 openings are currently available in transportation: 32 for bus drivers, nine for monitors, seven for crossing guards, and one each for a mechanic and dispatcher.
The openings for bus drivers stretch back to May 2020, along with calls for candidates age 21 or older with a high school diploma or equivalent. Other qualifications include: an exceptional driving recordl; the ability to pass a pre-employment physical, drug, alcohol, background, and TB test; the ability to handle emergency situations, evaluate and administer first aid in a timely manner; and the skills necessary to operate a school bus safely, communicate effectively and follow determined schedules.
Bus drivers are represented by the Oswego Transportation Association, the district’s union for transportation staff, and features three levels of compensation beginning at $18.36 an hour for new hires without a CDL/permit.
Bus monitors’ responsibilities include: assisting the driver with the safety, movement, management and care of students; learning and adapting to the medical, physical, communicative and emotional needs of students; serving as a role model by demonstrating positive attitude and self control; protecting the confidentiality of student records and information; securing students who use child safety restraint systems and serving as a crossing guard when needed.
Monitors must also be at least 21 years-old with a high school diploma or GED, and provide a certificate of good health signed by a licensed physician. The position is also represented by the OTA and has two levels of compensation: $12.24 an hour for new hires without experience, and $12.76 an hour for new hires with two or more years of previous experience.
Information about the changes to bus routes can be found under the district’s transportation department’s website through OSD 308.