MERCERVILLE — Working to get ahead on the bus driver shortage, a nationwide issue, Gallia County Local Schools held an event to allow anyone who has ever wanted to drive a bus, the perfect opportunity.
“I had actually read about other school districts doing it [“drive a bus”] in a school bus publication that I read,” said Jodie Johnson, bus driver. “I just kind of thought, well that’s a neat idea and then I realized that we definitely need subs and I thought, why don’t we just try that because nothing like that has ever been done in our district before.”
Johnson took the idea to Jacob Attar, transportation director and it went from there.
The event was held in the parking lots of South Gallia High School and River Valley High School.
Along with the opportunity to drive a bus, drivers were present to answer any questions people might have had and applications were available.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” said Emily Dailey, family consumer sciences teacher. “[Just] make sure you’re really wide, like have a really wide turning radius.”
Dailey said she does not see herself driving a bus but the option is appealing when it comes to trips for her students and a lack of drivers.
“There’s times I take trips with my kids because I’m a Home Ec teacher,” Dailey said. “We have FCCLA [Family, Career and Community Leaders of America] and we go on some trips and there’s times they don’t have any bus drivers.”
Attar said there were roughly 23 people between the two schools who drove the buses around the parking lot to test it out, including a few teachers.
Travis Halley, who had only ever driven the bus he renovated with his wife, said it was an easy operation.
“This is a common sense thing,” Halley said. “I mean, as long as it is, you [have] to take that into consideration and just drive with some sense. Pretty much that simple.”
As previously reported by Ohio Valley Publishing, a route is not the only thing for bus drivers.
“If you become a bus driver, you don’t have to just drive a bus route,” Attar said. “There’s more to it than that. You can drive trips for the football team or basketball team, baseball teams; there’s after-school activities or field trips. There’s all kinds of different ways that you can drive buses without necessarily being tied down to a route first thing in the morning and in the afternoon.”
One driver even received their degree while driving a bus — Johnson’s mother. With permission, she chose to shorten her drive by staying onsite and taking classes.
“She was a bus driver first and ended up taking the Buckeye Hills kids, which is out. So, she was going out there every day and coming back anyway,” Johnson said. “In the meantime, she just stayed out there during the day and took classes [and] became a teacher.”
She taught for awhile afterwards and retired as a teacher, Johnson said.
With the success of the event, Attar said he hopes to hold another event in the spring during warmer weather. In the meantime, those interested in driving a bus can call and make an appointment with the county office.
To test drive a bus, potential drivers must have a valid driver’s license. To become a regular driver, training must be complete along with a background check, drug screening and drivers need a good driving record.
Attar said if anyone would like more information on the event or becoming a driver to cal the county at 740-379-9085 or to email him [email protected]
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.