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No more route roulette as CCSD tops off bus driver pool

The school buses came rolling into Wallace Bus Yard like clockwork right before 9 a.m., as they do every weekday.

But there’s a difference behind the scenes at the Henderson facility and the Clark County School District’s four other bus yards. For the first time in seven years, the district’s transportation department expects to fully staff its crew of bus drivers within the next few weeks.

The situation was bleak at the start of last school year — 87 vacancies meant that the department relied on substitute drivers who were often unfamiliar with the routes and ran late as a result. One parent who grew extremely frustrated ended up breaking a bus window.

That number had diminished to 12 openings from the needed 1,608 drivers at the start of this school year — the lowest it’s been in three years — and has since dipped as low as seven since then, Shannon Evans, executive transportation director. said Thursday. With 23 drivers in training, those gaps should be filled soon.

“I think it’s been a huge collaborative effort between HR, transportation, our recruiting team,” Evans said of the improvement.

Driver vacancies, which I addressed in a story last year, are a problem nationwide. But it’s particularly acute in Las Vegas, where the district faces strong competition from the casino industry. A salary freeze in the support staff union’s wages also didn’t help.

So how did the district fill all those spots? Job fairs, certainly, but also a change in philosophy.

“Instead of constantly preaching, ‘The students are our customers, the students are our customers,’ we’ve tweaked that a little bit and said, ‘The employees, the drivers are also our customers, and they deserve to be treated and supported as though they are a valuable customer,’” Evans said.

Vacancies are fluid and may increase throughout the year as drivers quit or retire. But with more applicants in the pipeline, Evans is hoping to pull from a pool of substitute drivers when openings arise.

Jasmine Brown is one of the district’s new drivers.

As a mother of three Clark County students, she was looking for a career with a flexible schedule and a decent paycheck. At $15.38 per hour, she says he has found it.

“I needed something that would give me a good, cushy pay and the time that I needed to be with my kids,” said Brown, 28, who joined the district in October.

She previously worked in senior centers with lower pay and odd hours.

“The jobs I had before, the pay wasn’t worth it. The hours were not working with (my kids’) schedule,” she said “I checked with CCSD, and they’re flexible.”

Brown knows her schedule to the minute: 6:07 a.m., leave the bus yard; 6:35 a.m., pick up Foothill High students; 7:35 a.m., pick up Green Valley High students. Her afternoon shift starts when she leaves the yard at 12:36 p.m., picking up Foothill students at 1:16 p.m. She likes the schedule and plans to retire with the district.

Her out-of-pocket costs for becoming licensed were just $70 — $60 for a background check, and $10 for a print copy of her driving record. The district paid for training to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

“For me, my training was great, because when you want something in life you’re going to do everything you can to get it,” Brown said. “And I wanted to be a bus driver.”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter. On Education appears every other Saturday.

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