The bidding war for bus drivers is on as New Jersey school districts grapple with shortages blamed on the coronavirus pandemic.
In Essex County, the District of South Orange / Maplewood is offering new hires $ 35 per hour, $ 1,000 signing bonuses and $ 500 for successful referrals.
That’s a higher rate than any of the 25 school bus companies and school districts spotted two weeks ago by NJ Advance Media advertising bus drivers on Indeed.com.
South Orange / Maplewood, at the time, was offering $ 30 an hour – the highest of the school districts sampled, but slightly behind The Beloved Charter School in Jersey City, which offered $ 33 an hour and $ 1,000 per hour. signing bonuses.
By comparison, the pay rate for public bus drivers in New York City through the Metropolitan Transit Authority starts at $ 23.84 per hour.
South Orange / Maplewood stepped up its incentive program after District K-12 was left without a replacement driver and was forced to reassign transportation workers to cover absences and other shortcomings, among other issues.
School district business administrator Eric Burnside told NJ Advance Media that six applications have been received since the new benefits were announced about a week and a half ago, but that it would take some time to review candidates.
“We will continue our recruitment efforts in the hope of securing more high quality candidates to fill the positions,” Burnside said Tuesday.
Referring to the routing issues described to parents in a September 23 letter, Burnside said “delays in pickups and drops, for the most part, have been resolved.”
South Orange / Maplewood is the latest school district to aggressively campaign for new school bus drivers amid the shortage affecting many schools in New Jersey and across the country.
In Passaic County, the Wayne School District announced a starting rate of between $ 26 and $ 28 an hour last month after losing a dozen drivers, some of whom were at least 70 years old and relied on concerns about COVID-19 in deciding to leave.
Officials at the Toms River School District in Ocean County extended a $ 3,000 retention bonus on Monday until Nov. 30 for new hires who stay for at least a year. The offer was scheduled to expire on September 30.
The Camden School District also recently announced that it will pay parents $ 1,000 to drive their own children, or pay for NJ Transit bus passes.
Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey School Administrators Association, was interviewed by NJ Advance Media on whether the growing demand for bus drivers could create a “bidding war” between school districts.
“It will definitely happen. The question is to what extent. Many of these people live locally and probably don’t want to travel too far from their homes to work, ”said Bozza.
Bozza added that school districts also face challenges from private companies, including Amazon, to drivers.
“We are competing with a lot of people,” he said.
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Rob Jennings can be reached at [email protected].