There could soon be a shortage of bus drivers in eastern Iowa due to a combination of factors.
It’s something they do because they want something to do with their time, they love the daily interaction with students and meeting the parents. But the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that many of the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s bus drivers are giving up their side hustle or retirement gig this year because of continued uncertainties between the COVID-19 pandemic and derecho aftermath.
Many of the drivers are of the age group most susceptible to Coronavirus. 73 percent of school bus drivers across the United States are reportedly age 55 or older. Corridor districts are already taking safety precautions to protect bus riders and the older-aged drivers. Students and drivers would be required to wear face coverings, there would be socially-distanced seating, with an attendant assigned to each bus to enforce the guidelines. Despite these precautions, 20 percent of drivers are reportedly opting out at this point.
Clear-Creek Amana has lost seven drivers, and Linn-Mar has had three drivers step away from the job due to COVID concerns, along with three attendants.
The Iowa Department of Education is working to relax licensing requirements so that more people can qualify as bus drivers. According to the Gazette, drivers must be at least 18, deemed physically and mentally competent and able to pass criminal background checks, drug and alcohol tests, and driving record checks. That’s not changing.
But the state extended training deadlines by one month and will extend the grace period to one month for drivers to renew their commercial licenses. A 14-day waiting period between taking the knowledge test and the driving test was waived by Iowa DOT so school bus drivers can take both tests the same day
Then, there’s this. How soon will there be a school to drive to? 30 properties in the Cedar Rapids School District have derecho damage that needs to be repaired before anyone is catching the bus to school in person at all, and for that reason, Governor Kim Reynolds amended a proclamation to allow schools to start online in derecho-damaged districts.
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