Joplin School District approves incentives during bus driver shortage

JOPLIN, Mo. –The Joplin School District is facing a bus driver shortage, and is currently working to address the problem.

“If we don’t have backups, which is where our real shortage is, we need about ten to twelve, substitute drivers, with the routes that we have,” said Michael Bevis, Joplin Schools transportation director.

And this shortage is directly impacting students in Joplin Schools.

“We combine our routes this year, which made some of them kind of at the limit…so some of those routes now are right at an hour,” Bevis said.

Now, the Joplin school board is stepping in to deal with the shortage. 

They proposed two incentives as a way to gain more employees.

“One is for us to provide an immediate wage increase for the bus drivers. that’s the first thing. A dollar fifty to a dollar ninety an hour depending upon what step of the salary schedule the drivers are on,” said Dr. Kerry Sachetta, Assistant Superintendent of Operations for the Joplin School District. 

That would mean drivers could be paid up to seventeen ninety-three an hour.

“Part of the proposal is also to recommend to the board that we also provide some incentives for drivers,” Sachetta said. 

So if a current driver were to recruit a new driver that stays with the district, they could both receive a five hundred dollar bonus.

Getting these new drivers could ultimately add to the safety of the students, something their transportation director warns about.

“When you don’t have enough drivers and you’re trying to get things done short handedly it’s not as safe as it should be,” Bevis said. 

This is why the district says action needs to be taken to give students the education they deserve.

“Joplin is in the same situation as every other school district around, every school district in the state, every school district in the country…so we’re hoping that this will help get things back to normal,” said Sachetta. 

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, the board decided to approve these incentives, and they will go into effect as soon as October 2nd.