The South East Cornerstone Public School Division is looking for school bus drivers.
As of Wednesday, there were nine rural routes that did not have a driver, including one of the Weyburn Rural routes, two routes in Radville and Carlyle each, a route in Fillmore, and a route in Ogema and a route in Pangman.
“We’re looking for all kinds of drivers, really,” explained Keith Keating. He is the Director of Education with SECPSD. “There are some permanent routes available and we’re looking for more casual. The more casual we have, the better off we are, because it can take up to four months to get an ‘S’ endorsement through SGI right now, so it’s helpful if we have those drivers ready to pick up routes and drive special trips when needed.”
To recruit drivers, the division has been advertising where possible and has even held recruitment fairs. They have even gone as far as offering extra cash to help with the situation.
“We provide a $250 signing bonus for new drivers, and if we have one of our current drivers that finds a new bus driver for us, there’s a $500 incentive for bus drivers who successfully recruit new drivers,” Keating added.
The issue of school bus driver shortages isn’t unique to the southeast. Throughout the province, and the country, there are a number of reports of struggles of finding and maintaining drivers for the routes. The concern was even addressed in a resolution at the 2022 Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention when they called on the provincial government to work with the divisions to ensure there was the appropriate staffing available.
The average age of bus drivers is one reason for the shortage, with many of the drivers who have been long-term drivers reaching retirement age, and not as many people wanting to become school bus drivers in some of those areas.
Keating said the response to the recruitment campaigns here in the southeast has been fairly good so far, but he emphasized that it does take time to ensure those who are hired who don’t have their S endorsement are trained up and ready to go.
For some of the routes in rural areas that have been cancelled, the division does have to find alternatives to help get the kids to school, and that can sometimes result in a higher expense than having a driver on the route.
“Some of the issues that happen is we’ve had to cancel routes in some cases for short or long term,” Keating said. “If that’s the case, after three days, we pay the parents to transport students in rural areas. I know that’s not the best scenario for parents – it's extremely inconvenient but sometimes it’s the best we can do.”
For the school bus drivers employed by the SECPSD, Keating noted the hours are spread throughout the day – in the morning and then in the afternoon.
“It really is great for anybody who has young children who is just looking for a little extra income,” said the Director of Education. “We allow parents to bring their children on the bus with them in the morning, so it’s a great opportunity for somebody who’s got a little bit of flexibility in their schedule or who has young children at home.”
Those who are interested in becoming a school bus driver can contact the SECPSD via their website.
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