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Florence 1 Schools offers incentive to fill bus driver gap

Some Florence 1 Schools employees could soon be filling a new role as the district continues to face a bus driver shortage.

Increasingly over the last five years, Florence 1, and districts all over the country, have experienced driver shortages each school year. District administrators have been trying to find a solution to the shortage, including offering a $2,000 sign-on bonus for new drivers, as well as other incentives.

Florence 1 Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley said that the district is having to look for creative solutions because, regardless of how many bus drivers the district has, students need transportation.

“The district is in the business of educating students,” O’Malley said. “Part of that is getting our students safely to and from school. With the current shortage, student pick-up and drop-off are being affected. It is unacceptable for student instruction to be interrupted because of a bus driver shortage.”

Around thirty Florence 1 employees who are not currently working as a bus driver have the licensing necessary to drive a bus. The district will be offering those employees the $2,000 sign-on bonus as well as an additional $17,000 to sign a contract agreeing to work as a bus driver for a specified period of time on top of their current position.

“Our students have already been experiencing a lot of uncertainty in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” O’Malley said. “They shouldn’t have to worry about whether they can rely on the district to get them to class on time in the morning.”

During a normal school year, the district operates 178 routes. Due to COVID-19, routes were adjusted to have roughly 50 percent rider capacity.