Jennifer Shealy, Director of Communications,
Downingtown Area School District, firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of us are well aware of the nationwide bus driver shortage stemming from the pandemic. In my home district, this school year brought a 40-bus deficit, resulting in delayed buses, last-minute changes and a whole lot of stress on staff, parents and students.
Downingtown uses three primary bus contractors to transport students, which puts us in a bit of a gray area regarding marketing for them. On one hand, we should not use district resources to promote a contractor, but on the other, the lack of drivers directly impacts our students.
We have handled the situation in a few ways:
While we haven’t solved the driver shortage (yet), these programs have helped increase drivers and decrease absences. Making our drivers feel seen and appreciated has also gone a long way to improve the district-contractor relationship. If you have any other creative ideas to address the driver shortage, please support your colleagues and share them on the PenSPRA forum.
- We created a bus driver appreciation campaign. We collected gift card donations from local restaurants and once a month on a Friday, we pull a driver’s name to receive the gift card. The driver has to be working that day in order to receive the gift card, which has helped to decrease the Friday “early weekend” call-outs. We also plan to institute a “driver of the month” program where our superintendent delivers an in-person, surprise thank you with balloons and goodies for our all-star driver of the month. The driver will also be featured on our social media channels with links to the contractor employment pages.
- Get students and Home and School organizations involved. A group of our high school students created thank you baskets and hand-delivered them to bus drivers. They included snacks and gift cards to Wawa. The drivers loved them and appreciated the personal touch.
- Whenever we host a job fair or large-scale community event, we offer a free table to our bus contractors.
- On every “your bus will be running late” communication, we include a request for drivers with links to the contractor employment sites.
- We are in negotiations with our bus contractors for our district to provide additional funds to provide a small raise for any driver willing to be a substitute driver. This should help minimize the impact on our students of last-minute driver absences.