The shortage of school bus drivers hits Sweetwater County’s No. 1 school district

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By Trina Brittain, Rock Springs Rocket Miner

ROCK SPRINGS – Educators teach and students learn, but Sweetwater County’s No. 1 school district faces a shortage of school bus drivers.

School bus drivers have always played an important role in the lives of families in our community.

According to Joe Clingenpeel, Director of Transportation, eleven part-time drivers and four bus assistants are required.

“Bus drivers have a different schedule – they can clock in and out three or four times a day, but they could still work five hours a day,” explains Clingenpeel. “It takes a very special person to manage a schedule like this, to be a good driver and to be good with children.”

Clingenpeel emphasized: “Bus drivers have a great influence on children. You have helped countless children and I am proud of you. “

While COVID-19 is a big contributing factor to the nationwide bus driver shortage, Nicole Bolton, director of human resources, said that is not the main reason for the shortage of school bus drivers in Rock Springs.

“It’s hard to compete with private companies when they have better pay, more hours and benefits – that was the main concern here,” said Bolton. “Often, drivers with CDL cannot refuse a full-time position with advantages.”

“Being a part-time school bus driver is perfect for a select population,” reveals Bolton. “Our best drivers are those who have retired and only have to work part-time.”

Bolton usually receives positive feedback from school bus drivers.

“We don’t have a very high turnover rate at all, in fact I hear a lot of drivers say that this is the most rewarding job,” said Bolton. “Most kids will go home talking about their drivers more than anyone else – the students really love their drivers.”

“We have a top-notch training and safety program,” said Clingenpeel. “We’re not going to put anyone behind the wheel until they’re ready.”

He added: “Our drivers are very confident when they finish their training.”

Bolton and Clingenpeel agreed that the school bus drivers “are a really great group of people who are phenomenal with children”.

“Bus drivers play an important role in the life of our community,” said Bolton.

Bolton pointed out that the district has no problem filling its full-time jobs with benefits.

“This is an advantage for them if they start part-time and then want to go full-time.”

Applicants for a job as a school bus driver must be 23 years old and have a good vehicle registration certificate.

“This job is flexible with online courses,” said Bolton. “It’s a good extra income and especially the retirees love it.”

According to school bus driver Kyla Witt, there are a few perks for transporting children in Rock Springs.

“The nice thing about being a bus driver is watching the city wake up and watching the beautiful sunrises,” said Witt. “I love driving my car in the morning and picking up my happy and tired students.”

Witt was originally a bus assistant in the 2020-2021 school year. Soon she decided to get her CDL and become a driver.

“It was honestly something I was scared of,” she admitted. “I didn’t dare drive a huge bus.”

“With a lot of encouragement from the great team I work with, I’ve gained confidence. I was trained by one of the top ten best over the road drivers / trainers. Now I’m looking forward to driving, ”said Witt.

According to Witt, trainees receive paid training.

“I didn’t have to pay for a single class,” she said.

“As bus drivers, we are the first people to see children in the morning and the last people they see at the end of their school day. We can start and end your day with something positive. I’ve made new friends with colleagues and I really care about each of my students who ride my bus. “

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