By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent
Advertising works. Cory Adair proved it on Monday, dressing up a 1949 school bus with a help wanted sign and parking it at a local restaurant.
“It just said, ‘School bus drivers needed, three hours a day, $600 a month,’” said Adair, the school bus contractor for the Clovis municipal school system. “But I’ve probably had 25 calls today about it. Golden Corral was really nice to let me put the bus in their lot.”
Officials said seven local bus drivers quit over the summer, creating job openings that aren’t always easy to fill.
“We’re constantly looking for qualified drivers we can trust our kids with,” said Lonnie Leslie, assistant superintendent for Clovis schools.
“It’s difficult to replace bus drivers, because they go to work twice a day but they don’t work a lot of hours. But for the right person, it’s a perfect job.”
At full strength, Clovis employees 50 part-time bus drivers. Their work generally begins around 7 a.m. and ends an hour-and-a-half later. In the afternoon, taking the kids home requires about the same amount of time.
“The state is short of bus drivers. Every time I go to a conference, everybody is short,” Adair said. “The bigger cities have endless opportunities for drivers because there’s always somebody needing to go someplace. Between routes, they’re always shuttling kids to extra-curricular activities.
“Unfortunately, we just can’t keep them that busy.”
For those who have the time and the inclination, becoming a bus driver is a fairly rigorous process.
Potential drivers have to pass four written exams with the state motor vehicle department and then accumulate 30 hours of drive time before given the OK to take children to and from school.
School bus drivers are required to obtain a Class C drivers license, pass an FBI check and pass a Department of Transportation physical.
Adair, however, said that — once the training is over — the automatic transmission school buses of today and their maneuverability makes the job a little easier than in years past.
“Some people have the perception that driving a school bus is hard, but it’s not,” Adair said. “They also have the perception that kids are bad, but the kids aren’t all bad either.”