BIXBY, Okla. — Right now 27 bus drivers are serving Bixby Public Schools, but the goal is more than 40 by August.
Current drivers said they're nervous about the year ahead as the district prepares for a bell schedule change and bigger need.
"My last route I had 70 kids on there and that was a normal day, and that's a lot of kids to keep track of," Lynn Barry said.
This month the Bixby School Board approved a raise for the second time in two years, giving drivers a bump from just over $13 to $15 an hour.
"Schools I think are going to have to raise the game a little bit and be more competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining good drivers," superintendent Rob Miller said.
In the meantime, the transportation director steps in to drive multiple times a week, and said the current shortage is the worst he's seen in decades.
"There's always been an issue with getting drivers year after year after year. But in the last couple of years we haven't even been getting applications for drivers," Gabe Hayes said.
Right now these bus routes are filled to capacity, often holding three students in every seat, and running five to ten minutes late.
"That affects families and parents who might be waiting for those kids. It affects kids' comfort and safety on the buses when they're filled to capacity rather than having room to spread out a little bit," Miller said.
The district is also launching a marketing campaign to show the value of the job.
"Giving them someone that they can jump on the bus and say "hi, how was your day?" and seeing their happy faces light up... there's just nothing like that," Barry said.
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