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Verona schools and Badger Bus partner to solve school bus driver shortage

As students head back to the classroom, the Verona Area School District is asking staff and the community to become bus drivers.
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 5:08 PM CST
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VERONA, Wis. (WMTV) - More schools are working to bring students back in-person, but some are facing a school bus driver shortage. Students in Verona are coming back to the classroom at the end of January, but the district is short nearly a dozen school bus drivers.

“This school bus driver shortage actually existed before the pandemic,” explained Raechelle Belli, a spokesperson for the Verona Area School District.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the problem. Belli said some drivers left due to safety concerns, while others needed to find work while schools remained virtual.

“We definitely lost a lot of good drivers to other opportunities,” said John Meier, co-owner of Badger Bus.

Badger Bus provides transportation services to the Verona Area School District (VASD) and the Madison Metropolitan School District. Meier said he has been filling open positions with other full-time staff.

“Mechanics, people that work in administration are driving buses,” he described.

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Meier and the district decided to team up and recruit more drivers. In an email to staff, VASD explained school bus driver positions will include free training, part-time pay and a signing bonus of up to $2,500.

“These sign-on bonuses are not just for staff, they’re for anyone who’s interested,” Belli explained.

The call for help caught the eye of VASD’s data specialist Brad Humphrey.

“I thought it was something I could step in and do,” Humphrey said about receiving the email.

Humphrey said his father drove school buses, and for over a dozen years, Humphrey himself was a teacher.

“That was another opportunity so that I could be around students,” Humphrey said of becoming a driver.

District officials and Badger Bus said they are taking steps to keep both drivers and students safe, including masking and social distancing.

“We’re disinfecting, the windows are slightly cracked,” Meier said.

“We allow a maximum of 25 students on the bus,” Belli added, further explaining students can only sit in the same seat as siblings.

VASD and Meier both hope their recruitment effort will encourage more people to step up and help students get back in school safely.

“You’re the first one they see in the morning and the last one when they go back, so it’s a really important job,” Meier explained.

Humphrey added, “We’re in a situation now where we all need to grab a shovel and help in whichever way we can.”

You do not need to be part of the district staff to sign up. Drivers just have to commit to working the remainder of the school year.

For more information on how to sign up, click here.

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