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Posted: 9:12 PM- It's not unusual to see secretaries, mechanics and other transportation staffers driving buses for the Jordan School District.
For the past eight years, the state's largest district has needed more bus drivers than it can find.
It's a problem other Utah districts share, although to a lesser extent. When the economy is strong and drivers are in demand, it's hard for school districts to retain bus drivers who typically earn a starting hourly wage of about $14.
"It's a revolving door. We get people trained, then they're gone," said Moya Kessig, Jordan's human resources director. "It's chronic."
Jordan needs about 20 drivers to be fully staffed, so the district has decided to try offering an incentive to drivers who remain on the job.
Contracted drivers working 20 hours or more per week will receive bonuses at the end of the school year in an amount determined by their hire date and number of contract hours worked.
"We hope [it will help us] be fully staffed," Kessig said. "That's our fantasy, our dream."
Jordan trains eligible applicants, a process that can take four to six weeks depending on their skill level and hours of training. But too often, once they complete training and receive their commercial driver's license, they leave to work elsewhere.
"Our salaries are pretty competitive. We're trying to give [ourselves] a little edge." Kessig said. "If they come to the district and have a good experience, why wouldn't they stay? But right now we don't even get the opportunity."
Davis District added 10 new bus routes this year, and is recruiting drivers in part by parking a school bus with a "Now Hiring" sign in plain sight of commuters driving on Interstate 15 between Bountiful and Salt Lake City.
Drivers for the new routes came from the substitute driver pool, leaving a sparse list of replacement drivers that needs some additions, Davis spokesman Chris Williams said.
Granite District needs up to 10 substitute drivers, added Randy Ripplinger, that district's spokesman.
Neither district, however, anticipates offering an incentive like that the Jordan School Board approved Tuesday.
Jordan's incentive plan will cost between $168,000 and $200,000 based on last year's bus driver salaries, according to information the Jordan board received Tuesday.
Board member Tracy Cowdell said offering bonuses is worth a try.
Without them "pretty soon we'll be driving buses, too," he said.