PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The area manager for Pinellas County Schools tells ABC Action News that bus driver shortages are common every year. But, with so many Americans looking for work, she hopes this year is different.
The district needs to hire 50 school bus drivers and 110 bus attendants for the upcoming year.
"It's fairly easy, we go through the whole training with you," Mary Sue Cross, the Area Manager for Pinellas County Schools Transportation Division, said. "It's a 40-hour class, which is curriculum and driving and then some other little different classes along the way first aid. We walk you through the whole thing and teach you everything."
Potential applicants need to pass a drug test, background check and have a clean driving record. This year, for the first time, the district is holding training for applicants throughout the year.
"I like kids. I like dealing with the youth. And, I think that it will be a different opportunity to talk to kids," Bridget Letthand, an applicant to be a full-time school bus driver, said. "I'm really excited I take my CDL test today, actually. A lot of people are out of work because of COVID. And, I'm just blessed, I'm happy; I'm happy."
Veteran lead bus driver Steve Kearney said the most important part of his job is keeping the kids safe. Kearney said he's driven for Pinellas County Schools for ten years and has this advice for anyone wanting to apply.
"You have to make sure you like working with children to start with," Kearney said. "The hardest part of the job is you put 65 students on board, and you start driving around."
Kearney said it is the best job for him once you memorize your route and get comfortable driving with kids on board.
"The freedom of it I'm not stuck in an office sitting in a chair all day long to me this job is something different every day," Kearney said.
And throughout the entire pandemic, Kearney said he kept his benefits and continued getting paid even though he had no students to pick up and drop off.
"It's a great job I don't anybody that would continue to pay me through this entire pandemic," Kearney said.
Pinellas County Schools is hosting a Job Fair for Transportation Maintenance and Food and Nutrition June 24 at Largo High School from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The district will have staff on hand to help with applications and do on-the-spot interviews.