School district offers incentives to recruit bus drivers

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CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) – One local school district is offering incentives to recruit new bus drivers and others are soon to follow. It’s all part of their effort to keep kids in the classroom.

As a retired Albany police officer, John Joyce took on a new challenge turning in his cruiser for some new wheels in Niskayuna.

“It’s a little daunting in the beginning, you got a 40-foot vehicle that weighs 30,000 pounds and you obviously have precious cargo our children,” said Joyce.

For the last 6 years, Joyce has been a bus driver for the Niskayuna School District.

“Once you get trained on driving a bus you realize what was I so nervous about,” said he. 

In the hunt for bus drivers, the Niskayuna School District is giving existing and potential bus drivers a $3.00 increase in the hourly wage for school bus drivers, retroactive to the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

Current bus drivers will also receive a $500 stipend in December of this year and those who remain employed by the district through the end of this school year will receive another $500 at that time.

“We do a good job of getting you to pass your road test and get out on the road as soon as possible. So it doesn’t matter your background you can drive a bus,” said Joyce.

Other school districts like Shenendehowa Central Schools are looking to follow suit to get more drivers.

“So, all these topics are on the table that we are exploring with the district administration, and we will see where those discussions take us,” said Alfred Karem.

Shenendehowa Central School Transportation Director Alfred Karem says having 30 bus drivers out at a time, and a huge district to provide for; they are in need of more options.

“We don’t have the substitute pool to cover those out, so we are using office staff, dispatchers, and mechanics. This is something that can’t be sustained,” said Karem.

One thing that can be sustained according to Joyce is the feeling he gets when he opens the bus door at the beginning of the day.

“It’s definitely the kids they are so much fun and make my day,” said Joyce.

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