By Trina Brittain, Rock Springs Rocket Miner
ROCK SPRINGS — Educators are teaching and students are learning but Sweetwater County School District No.1 is facing a shortage on school bus drivers.
School bus drivers have always played an important role in the lives of families in our community.
According to Joe Clingenpeel, Director of Transportation, 11 part-time drivers and four bus aides are needed.
“Bus drivers have a different kind of schedule – they may clock in and clock out three or four times a day, but they could still work five hours a day,” Clingenpeel explained. “It takes a very special person to tackle that kind of schedule, be a good driver and be good with kids.”
Clingenpeel pointed out, “Bus drivers have a huge influence on kids. They’ve helped a countless number of children and I’m proud of them.”
While COVID-19 is a big factor in the bus driver shortages nationwide, Nicole Bolton, Director of Human Resources, said that is not the main reason for the school bus driver shortage in Rock Springs.
“It’s hard to compete with private businesses when they offer better pay, more hours and benefits – that’s been the main concern here,” Bolton shared. “Often, drivers with a CDL can’t refuse a full-time position with benefits.”
“Being a part-time school bus driver is perfect for a select population,” Bolton revealed. “Our best drivers are the ones who retired and just needed something to do part-time.”
Bolton usually receives positive feedback from the school bus drivers.
“We don’t have a very high turn-over rate at all, in fact, I hear many drivers say that this is the most rewarding job,” Bolton said. “Most kids will go home and talk about their drivers more than anyone else – the students really love their drivers.”
“We have a top-notch training and safety program,” Clingenpeel said. “We’re not going to put anyone behind the wheel until they’re ready.”
He added, “Our drivers are very confident when they finish their training.”
Bolton and Clingenpeel agreed that the school bus drivers are “a genuinely awesome group of people who are phenomenal with kids.”
“Bus drivers play an important role in the lives of our community,” Bolton said.
Bolton pointed out that the district does not have a problem filling their full-time positions with benefits.
“That’s a perk for them if they want to start part-time and then make their way into full-time.”
Candidates for a school bus driver position must be 23 years old and have a good Motor Vehicle Record.
“This job is flexible with online classes,” Bolton mentioned. “It’s good extra income and the retirees, especially, love it.”
According to school bus driver, Kyla Witt, there are a few perks transporting children in Rock Springs.
“The beauty of being a bus driver is watching the town wake up and witness the beautiful sunrises,” Witt expressed. “I love driving in the morning, picking up my happy and tired students.”
Witt was originally a bus aide during the 2020-2021 school year. Soon, she decided to get her CDL and be a driver.
“It was honestly something that I was afraid of doing,” she admitted. “I didn’t trust myself driving a huge bus.”
“With a lot of encouragement from the great team I work with, I gained confidence. I was trained by one of the Top Ten Best Over the Road Driver’s/Trainers. I get excited to drive now,” Witt said.
According to Witt, trainees receive paid training.
“I didn’t have to pay for a single class,” she said.
“As bus drivers, we are the first person kids see in the morning and the last person they see at the end of their school day. We can start and end their day with some positivity. I have made new friendships with co-workers, and I truly care about each of my students who ride my bus.”