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Berkeley Co. schools offering incentives for new bus drivers

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:25 AM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - As Lowcountry school districts experience a shortage in bus drivers, Berkeley County says they are trying to sweeten the deal.

Berkeley County School District Director of Transportation Eric Scriven says they are less than a month away from school starting back but they are still about 60 drivers short of their 253 bus driver goal.

In order to be fully staffed, Scriven says they need to have a different driver assigned to every bus. He hopes sharing some new incentives with the community might bring in some new hires.

“We have full benefits,” Scriven said. “Health, dental, certainly we have our 401k’s and all that good stuff for our department, but the main thing is the benefit is being a part of something very special, transporting our cargo, which is our precious resource, our children.”

Scriven says his school district transports about 22,000 kids during an average school year. While last year’s numbers were a little lower, Scriven says it is because some students and families had health concerns and opted out of taking the bus. He says he anticipates numbers will be back to normal this year.

To combat the return to normal numbers, the district is offering a $1,000 signing bonus for drivers who stay on for six months or one semester. Those who stay for the second second semester, or a whole year, will receive a total of $2,000 dollars in incentives.

The transportation director says the district has had driver shortages in years past, and that has required drivers to double up on the number of trips they take to and from the school. Scriven says his goal is to not have to do that this year.

Berkeley County School District Bus Driver Dana Shipmen says the application and certification process only takes a few weeks, and the job makes it worth it.

“I’m a parent, I have two daughters, and instead of sitting at home and seeing the shortage of bus drivers, I wanted to join and make my voice count,” Shipmen said. “And so that’s what I am doing. I am driving so that I can be a part of this, not a problem, I am creating a solution.”

Scriven says masks will no longer be required on buses this year, but that’s in accordance with new state guidelines. That’s not shaking Shipmen who says she’s excited to see more of her students’ smiling faces and help them through some uncertain times.

“We are the first face that all of the students see in the morning, and we are the last face that they see in the afternoon,” Shipmen said. “We want to stay positive during this pandemic, so that we can be encouraging, encouraging each other, so that they can get through this school year along with us.”

The starting salary for bus drivers in the Berkeley County School District is $16 an hour.

Scriven says drivers who apply and already have a Commercial Driver’s License can start a lot quicker, but that’s not a requirement. New applicants without prior certifications can apply now for the upcoming school year. Scriven says he hopes to get those started by mid-September.

Those wanting to apply can do so via a portal the Berkeley County School District has organized.

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