Sonoma Valley school district urgently needs bus drivers
The Sonoma Valley Unified School district is urgently trying to hire more bus drivers for routes that have been canceled due to a shortage of drivers at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.
The district’s transportation department sent home a letter to parents and guardians of students at Sonoma Valley High School and Creekside High School on Thursday, Aug. 10, informing them of the situation.
“We regret to share that due to staffing shortages, we are unable to provide school bus transportation for high school students,” the letter states. “We are working hard to obtain drivers and are hoping to have enough drivers available in the next few weeks to offer bus service for our students.
“Please note, students in special education who have transportation set up in their IEP are not affected and will be provided transportation.”
Three routes — and approximately 72 students — were impacted, although only one route was filled to capacity.
Dr. Jeanette Chien, superintendent of the district, told the Index-Tribune that with the closure of Dunbar Elementary School at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, the district now needs to transport students who attended it to their new elementary schools. This has created a need for more drivers.
“The transportation department has been recruiting bus drivers all summer and could not find any additional drivers, and we were notified of another driver resigning last week,” she said.
Bus driver shortages exist throughout Sonoma County and across the country, partly due to low pay and inconvenient hours, often with split shifts. This has made recruiting challenging and competitive.
On Friday, Aug. 18, four full-time bus driver jobs were listed on the Sonoma Valley Unified School District website. The job description states that the salary range is $22.51 to $24.83 per hour, depending on similar experience. It added that effective July 1, there was a step increase on the salary schedule and a 6% union-negotiated and board-approved raise.
“We want to thank our city manager, David Guhin, for helping us recruit via the city job board,” Chien said. “Sonoma Valley Unified School District is thankful for the partnerships we have as we work together to ensure that our students’ needs are met. We encourage the community to help us continue recruiting for school bus drivers.”
Chien said that the district also has reached out to the Sonoma County Office of Education, neighboring districts and private companies to recruit drivers.
“With this outreach, we have managed to recruit some drivers who will be going through the hiring process,” she said. “We are hoping to get them on board as soon as possible.”
The district also has provided high school students with information about free bus transportation via Sonoma County Transit.
On its website, the school district states that due to the bus driver shortage, it is not accepting additional applications for student transportation. Students normally are eligible for transportation to and from school if the distance between their school-established bus stop and the school is beyond these limits: 1 mile for kindergartners through sixth graders; 1-1/2 mile for seventh and eighth graders; and 2 miles for ninth through 12th graders.
The website also provides a link for people to access who are interested in bus driver positions (see sidebar for qualifications).
Celeste Winders, a member of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, said that this is a great opportunity for people looking for work.
“It is a full-time position, union with a 6% union-negotiated and board-approved raise,” she said. “We have a good relationship with our union partners and would love for more people to join the team.
“Our transportation department employees are a very important part of the education team that helps ensure our kids’ success by getting them to and from school safely, and as another adult in their lives who knows them and cares.”
Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at email@example.com.