The Pinellas County school district has added another incentive in its ongoing effort to recruit more bus drivers.
It’s offering a $1,000 bonus to new hires — $500 upon completion of training, and another $500 at the end of the next school year. The goal is to fill at least 50 vacancies, starting with the first of seven job fairs Tuesday, at the Walter Pownall Service Center on Belcher Road in Largo.
“We’re not the only ones trying to hire right now,” district spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas said. “You try to attract a good pool.”
Earlier this year, the district offered current transportation employees $1,000 for referring new drivers who stay for a year. The School Board also approved changes to school start times in an attempt to make more efficient use of the buses and routes.
The bonuses are among several efforts districts are making to combat a national shortage of bus drivers, which has made it difficult to get all students to their classes on time daily.
The Hillsborough County school district, which also is having a job fair Tuesday, offered internal employees bonuses for referring new drivers back in the fall. The district also increased its bus driver hourly pay.
The Pasco County school district took a different approach, noting that districts with higher pay seemed to have as much trouble hiring new drivers as it did. Instead of increasing salaries, the district altered its school start times for the second semester. It also eliminated bus rides for middle and high school students who live closer than 2 miles from campus, starting in August.
Those steps were designed to reduce the need for as many bus drivers, officials said. At the same time, assistant superintendent Betsy Kuhn added, the Pasco district also offered current drivers attendance-based bonuses.
Across Florida, the story has looked much the same for large and small districts alike.
The Sarasota County school district, for instance, recently revamped its start and end times to make better use of its bus scheduling, and the Walton County school district offered $1,000 signing bonuses to drivers who stayed at least 90 days on the job.
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