School bus driver shortages are a nationwide problem, prompting school districts to cancel routes and causing students to arrive late to school.

Fresno Unified, the fourth-largest school district in California, is not immune to the problem but is making steady improvement.

Back in January, the district reported being short eight drivers. At a recent Fresno Unified school board meeting, Chief Operations Officer Karin Temple said the district has cut that number to three.

However, Fresno Unified wants to close that gap and position itself to be the employer of choice for bus drivers.

It proposes to accomplish this by increasing all of its driver positions to eight-hour shifts.

— Karin Temple

Majority of Drivers Work Less Than 8 Hours a Day

Currently, the district has 93 bus drivers, 38 of which are full time. Bus drivers in the remaining 55 positions work six and seven-hour shifts, which Temple said is common in transportation agencies.

“We think guaranteeing an eight-hour day for those 55 positions and thereby increasing their baseline wages will be advantageous to the district as well to our drivers,” Temple said.

With this change being made, I believe that we will get more bus drivers in the door in which we can hire more relief drivers at the time.” — Ruben Reginald, Fresno Unified transportation director

The move will also reduce the frequency at which the district pays overtime, which Board Clerk Carol Mills says is a plus.

“This request to increase the number of hours will save a lot of administrative time,” Mills said. “Calculating seniority and who gets what is a huge time drain on staff.”

Ruben Reginald, the district’s transportation director, laid to rest fears Mills and others had regarding whether the district would have enough drivers, especially relief drivers, to staff all routes.

“With this change being made, I believe that we will get more bus drivers in the door in which we can hire more relief drivers at the time,” he said.

The net cost increase, Temple said, is projected at nearly $170,000.

Transportation For Special-Ed Students

Temple is also in the process of developing a proposal for short- and long-term solutions for transporting special education students.

The plan, Temple said, is to purchase approximately 13 specialty buses and hire 10 new drivers.

“We are targeting presenting our recommendation to the board at mid-year for potential implementation in early 2020,” Temple said.

Public hearings on the district’s proposed 20-19-20 budget will take place in May followed by adoption in June.

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