PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A nationwide shortage of school bus drivers has prompted many districts to come up with unconventional ways to help fill the need.
At Riverside Local School District in Painesville Township, 9th grade English teacher Kyle Andree is among a handful of educators picking up the slack and running routes each and every morning.
“I would just fill in here or there, but now we are so short-staffed that I'm driving every morning and I have the same route every day,” he explained.
Andree told News 5 he earned his Commercial Drivers License about five years ago when he worked at a summer camp.
“I don't know what I was expecting,” he said. “Being the first one to see the kids in the morning, the last one to see them when you drop them off at night, it’s really rewarding to build that relationship with the kids.”
In addition to Andree, LaMuth Middle School Secretary Val Keener, custodian Michael Jahn, transportation director Christine Illner and assistant to the transportation director Shirley Lange also drive buses for the district on a regular basis in addition to their current job within the district.
“We all work as a team,” Andree added. “We’re doing the best we can to get the kids to school, to give them the best experience and best education we can.”
A July report from the EdWeek Research Center showed 86% of principals and district leaders nationwide said they do not have enough applicants to fill the bus driver openings they have.
At Riverside Local School District, HR director Mallory Aliff told News 5 that bus drivers have been the hardest position to fill, in part because of the training required.
“We could use ten more transportation drivers,” she said. “People are doing things they’ve never done before.”
What makes this school year more difficult than others when it comes to hiring bus drivers is that this marks the first year since the start of the pandemic where just about every student has returned to in-person learning, meaning more routes are needed to pick up everyone, experts told News 5.
For Andree, he said this experience has made him a better teacher.
“Driving around and knowing every kid comes from a different background, it has really helped me to understand them and be more patient too,” he said.
To learn more about openings and apply at Riverside Local School District, click here.
The Northeast Region of the Ohio Association of Pupil Transportation is also set to host a bus driver training program the week of October 10, where anyone interested can attend and begin their training. That class will be paid for by the district.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.