Original Published on Jun 30, 2022 at 15:34

By Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools staff say they are worried about having enough bus drivers to cover all the routes in the district.

Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh reported at the June 8 business committee meeting that the school district is facing recruitment challenges, which could possibly affect service next year.

“While the district has a strong contingent of long-term employees, upon retirement or other departures replacements have become increasingly difficult,” Walsh’s report to the business committee says.

“If this trend continues staff are unsure if current service levels will be maintained. Service gaps could result in students waiting significant times to be picked up or if current ridership is maintained, changing to routes that create early drop-offs to school and late pickups from schools.”

Currently, the district is hiring multiple casual bus drivers at a wage of $28.37 per hour. Skills and experience required include a Grade 11 education or the equivalent and a valid B.C. Class 1 or 2 Driver’s License with an air brake endorsement.

The district says all options are under consideration to recruit and retain drivers, including paying for driver training and creating more full-time positions that include a combination of driving and other duties.

Like other employers, NLPS’s recruitment challenge is not isolated to bus drivers, Walsh said.

“We’ve been facing failure to fills in our [education assistants], in our clerical, in our teachers on some days, and we’re able to cover in a way within the schools that is not ideal but is safe and still conducive to learning. Buses are a bit different – we’ve got kids to pick up and drop off and they’re expected to be there at certain times.”

Tracy Mowat, NLPS’s manager of transportation, said the department is working with human resources to tweak job postings, such as changing the need for two years experience from a required asset to preferred.

Recruitment is “difficult because we bring them on first off as a casual,” Mowat said. “It is difficult for people to come on and have un-guaranteed work.”

This item reprinted with permission from The Sounder, Gabriola, British Columbia