$30 an hour for 30 drivers: Jackson Township hopes pay increase will help add more school bus drivers
Staff shortages continue to affect school districts across New Jersey, including Jackson, especially when it comes to finding bus drivers.
The district is hoping a pay increase will help bring in new drivers. They are hoping to add 30 drivers to its roster at $30 an hour.
“In the beginning of the school year, my main priority, I had to combine many of the routes which overwhelmed many of the drivers, double the workload,” says Interim Transportation Director Kristopher Soto. “Every day it's a puzzle.”
A pay increase of $7.33 was passed at last week's board meeting. The township, like other districts, continues to feel the pinch of shortages resulting in pick up and drop off delays, and limited runs for after school activities and athletics.
“A lot of sports events actually got canceled because we don't have enough buses,” says Soto.
South Jersey Assemblywoman Bethanne McCarthy Patrick introduced a bill that would allow certain retirees to return to work without giving up their retirement allowance. The bill would offer retired bus drivers, lunch aides, and custodians to return to employment in a school district for up to two years without reenrollment in public employees’ retirement system.
The township hopes the $30 an hour incentive will lure back to the workforce the best of the best.
“We transport families, most valuable asset, which is our children, we want individuals who share that same vision and go with us to transport our kids safe and efficiently, provide the best services,” says Soto. “We are the first people to say good morning to our children and we're the ones who say good afternoon at the end of the day.”
In addition to public students, current estimates put the number of private school students in Jackson around 3,300 starting next fall, and by law, the district must also provide transportation or a stipend for the families, adding to the challenges already facing the district.