GLENARDEN, Md. — School systems throughout the DMV are facing a bus driver shortage. A veteran driver points to the pandemic and pay as the culprit.
Kim Hall has been behind the wheel of Maryland school buses for 18 years.
“The kids themselves, they keep you motivated, because they look up to you," Hall said.
She says school bus driving is a "good job," but that the pandemic has pressed the accelerator on retirements and brakes on new hires.
“The pandemic has done a lot to deter people from applying to be school bus drivers, because of the close quarters that you're in on a school bus," Hall said.
Over the last few weeks, multiple school districts throughout Maryland and Virginia have shared that they're facing driver shortages.
Loudoun County Public Schools said they're looking for more than 85 new drivers.
Fairfax County Public Schools couldn't provide a specific number of drivers they need but confirmed a shortage.
Both LCPS and FCPS are offering signing bonuses to new drivers in an effort to combat that challenge.
"The incentives on new hires, it feels a little unfair. I understand what they're doing. But can you imagine sticking in there hanging in there, and someone just coming in got a $3,000 bonus?" Hall said.
Prince William County Public Schools said they're down about 100 drivers, though they have 30 currently undergoing training.
Training is another hiring obstacle, according to Hall.
“The big misconception is that anybody can do this job," she said. "This is like a carpool on steroids … You have to be a counselor, a referee, cheerleader, disciplinary and you have to do all these things and pay attention to traffic, and maybe read their directions.”
She said you have to pass a background check, have a good driving record, receive a clear drug test, and complete a certain hours'-worth of training.
Also, even with the hikes in hourly wages that many districts are offering, Hall said the job doesn't pay a lot.
That's why she's working to start a nonprofit to help drivers cover some of their bills and hopefully attract more people to the job she loves so much.
“We need to just have a general fund for school personnel to help them make it because like I said, there, we've known teachers are undervalued, but so is the rest of the employees of the school system," she said.
Hall started this gofundme to launch the nonprofit, which she hopes to one day be a resource to drivers nationwide.
List of available bus driver positions:
Prince William County Public Schools
ISO: Approx. 100 drivers
Starting pay: $21.34/hour at 30 hours/week
Wage increase/signing bonus?: Market adjustment in spring
Training: Min. 24 hours in-class & min. 24 hours on-road
Other requirements: Driver must hold Commercial Driver's License with appropriate endorsements
Loudoun County Public Schools
ISO: 85+ drivers
Starting pay: $22.16/hour with a 6-hour guaranteed minimum daily contract
Wage increase/signing bonus: $2,500 signing bonus; $1,000 referral bonus to LCPS employees who refer new driver applicants
Requirements/how to apply: https://www.lcps.org/Page/217574
Fairfax County Public Schools
ISO: # drivers unavailable but confirms shortage
Starting pay: $22.91/hour — what they believe is the highest wage in Nova
Signing bonus: $3,000 signing bonus for new driver applicants that meet new driver requirements
Where to apply: https://www.fcps.edu/careers/career-opportunities/bus-driver-employment-opportunities
Montgomery County Public Schools
ISO: 100 drivers
Starting pay: $19.53/hour
Where to apply: mcpscareers.org
WUSA 9 will update this list as more school systems provide information.