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Area adult education programs team up to address school bus driver shortage

Across the state, school districts are dealing with a bus driver shortage.
A shortage of school bus drivers is causing concerns for school districts across Maine.
A shortage of school bus drivers is causing concerns for school districts across Maine.(WABI)
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 4:40 PM EDT
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READFIELD, Maine (WABI) - A shortage of school bus drivers is causing concerns for school districts across the state.

Many are offering incentives to get people their Class B license and drive, including two adult education programs.

“We can’t work the magic and miracles that occur in our schools buildings without these bus drivers,” said Kelli Deveaux, Director of Communications for the Maine Department of Education.

“Parents are getting alerts almost every single day that there child’s bus isn’t going to make it and they’re going to be responsible for taking their kids to school and that’s quite a hardship for a lot of families,” explained RSU 38 Adult Education Program Director, Steve Vose.

Across the state, school districts are dealing with a bus driver shortage.

Officials with the Maine Department of Education says in many instances, school bus drivers are the first faces students see and sometimes the last friendly smile of the day.

“Those drivers not only our ambassadors for our schools but they’re also our eyes and ears,” said Deveaux.

Many districts have resorted to offering incentives to drivers.

RSU 38, which serves a number of schools in central Maine, paid three bus drivers to take the commercial driver license course.

Now, their Adult Education Program is teaming up with Bangor’s to offer free classes this fall.

Money for the project comes from a workforce innovation grant through the DOE.

“We thought that if we could remove as many barriers as we could, offer free training through the grant, and hopefully pick up a few drivers from this area,” said Bangor Adult Education director, Greg Leavitt.

Ten spots are available per month.

Classes running in September are almost full, but they are creating a wait list.

Classes resume in November and January.

“Anybody that is interested in driving, it could be a school bus, it could be the city bus. The city bus needs some people as well,” Leavitt said.

The CDL class prepares folks to meet the Maine BMV Class B school bus driving requirements.

The course consists of 42 hours of classroom instruction and 30 hours of driving instruction.

Vose says this could benefit many looking to make some extra cash, potentially with benefits, while also helping fill a critical need for school bus drivers.

For now, students and parents alike are asked to be patient.

“It’s a good paying honest days work and we hope people will take advantage of that,” said Deveaux.

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