Revving up solutions: Noblesville Schools getting creative in ways to attract more bus drivers

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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — As several Indiana school districts continue to battle an ongoing bus driver shortage, it’s forcing some to get creative in making ends meet as they work to hire more help.

For Noblesville Schools, Transportation Director Brian Zachery says they’re down about seven full-time drivers.

While the number doesn’t seem like much, he says they are feeling the void.

“We have drivers that run their regular routes, and then go back out and return to the school, and then run another route to cover for an absence,” he said. “It’s impacted our families a lot that way because students aren’t being taken home at the expected time. They’re getting home a little bit later every day.”

Zachery says they’ve had a better time covering mornings as some drivers are available to help, but the impact is noticeable in the afternoons. Kids are coming home later, up to 45 minutes behind, in some cases.

“We do have students, especially the middle school high school students, where it has a really big impact on some of them is they have a lot of things scheduled after school,” Zachery said, “and so they have that normal expected time to be home, and we can’t predict on any given day who it’s going to be and so it’s hard on some of the families.”

To help attract more drivers, the district has implemented several strategies, including paid incentives and referral programs for district employees.

“Any employee that refers someone to us, and if that person completes the process and is employed, they can qualify for a bonus,” Zachery said, “and we’ve started now where we offer paid training to our trainees and we’ll also pay for them to take their CDL test, when it’s time to take their skills test, we will pay for that now.”

“So things that we didn’t do in the past, we’ve had to kind of change our way of doing things as well,” he added.

Zachery is also hopeful to land more candidates through Saturday’s recruitment event. From 9 a.m. to noon, the district is giving people a chance to test drive a school bus at the transportation center (19790 Hague Road).

The opportunity is open to those 21 and older, with a valid driver’s license, and an interest or curiosity in learning about the position or to see how driving a bus feels.

“It’s not something you can’t do. Driving a bus, it is a challenging job. It is a hard job,” Zachery said, “but somebody who thinks they might want to do it, who enjoys working with kids, I think they’ll find it’s not quite as intimidating as they thought it might be.”

“It’s the kind of person that we’re looking for, somebody who maybe they want to work while the kids are in school, or their calendar year be off when the kids are off and things like that. So, not just retirees anymore that we get in these positions. We’re trying to reach out to other groups,” he added.

Current drivers will be available during Saturday’s event to answer questions, and help you apply if you’re interested.

Other districts are also working against the ongoing shortage.

In August, we told you about Carmel Schools implementing “No Bus Zones”. The move, meant to help combat the shortage, encourages students to walk or bike to school if they live within a one mile radius.

We’ve also reported on the disruptions within Pike Schools, where lack of drivers have caused sudden switches to remote learning, and school day cancelations in some cases.

Both districts were unable to comment for this story, but according to both websites, applications are still open for bus driver positions. Click the links to apply for Carmel or Pike Schools.

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