Several school districts in Rio Arriba County face a bus driver shortage despite several attempts to fix this issue.
The districts are short of activity and substitute bus drivers, officials said. Activity bus drivers are responsible for driving students to and from their extracurricular activities as well as to and from field trips. Substitute drivers fill in for any bus driver who needs to take time off.
The Española school district is hoping to mantain a bus driver pool with a minimum of five substitute drivers.
“Other districts are struggling for drivers as well,” Española Public Schools Transportation Director Tito Ortiz said. “The CDL process is quite cumbersome to go through, and even if we cover some of the initial costs – which can range up to at least $300 before a person even begins to start working – they have to go through 40 hours of training. They have to have a driving test, which is $100. Even before they can do training behind the wheel and obtain their commercial license permit, they have to have a medical examiner’s certificate, which is essentially a physical. There’s only certain doctors that are certified to do that for commercial vehicles, and they charge anywhere from $100 to $300 for that physical depending on which physician you decide to see.”
Jemez Mountain Public Schools Superintendent Felix Garcia said at a Jan. 25 school board meeting that Escalante High School has offered to pay certain fees to try and resolve the shortage. Garcia added that he has offered raises to bus drivers in his district, but the issue has not been resolved.
Ortiz said this shortage doesn’t necessarily impact the students themselves, but it’s still an issue.
“We’re okay as far as our routes go,” Ortiz said. “Where we struggle is just in covering the route when someone needs time off, and fulfilling the need for activities and field trips. Not always, but there are those days where it’s difficult to meet every need.”
Garcia said he did a poll with the other districts in the county and found they are facing the same issues. He said that Mesa Vista is contracting with Herrera School Buses and Coaches.
Martin Herrera of Herrera School Buses and Coaches supplies buses for the Pojoaque Valley School District and said that district is fully staffed.
“We have three to five extra drivers on standby to fill in for drivers that may be out for various reasons,” Herrera said of the Pojoaque Valley School District. “We cover activity bus trips for many different districts in the area, also.”
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