Struggle to find bus drivers continues for Des Moines schools

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DES MOINES, Iowa — School for Iowa students has been in session for almost two months and local districts are still struggling to find bus drivers.

Des Moines Public Schools is still looking for 40 new drivers.

DMPS continues to offer a $2,000 signing bonus and free CDL training for new hires and a $5,000 bonus if you already have a CDL. 

With around 65 drivers and over 11,000 kids riding the bus, DMPS has started double routes to deal with the demand. 

The district has also put CDL-trained employees who don’t normally drive, such as directors, dispatchers and routers behind the wheel. 

Talent and Personnel Manager for Des Moines Public Schools, Charles Mercer, said along with securing new hires, employee retention is also a concern of the district. 

“Money is not necessarily the overarching problem. It’s more so staff stress, that burnout,” Mercer said. “We don’t want them to leave. We want them to stay with us for several years. So we don’t want to add too much stress. We don’t want to overwhelm people.” 

Chas Jones has been a bus driver with DMPS for 15 years and has recently become a trainer for new hires. He said there are a lot of challenges these days, but the kids keep him coming to work.

“I’m always learning from them as time evolves or kids evolve. 15 years, I’ve been able to start kids from preschool and watch and go on to college,” Jones said. “They’ll run up to me and say ‘Mr. Chas, Mr. Chas remember I was on your bus?’ And they were excited. So that excitement continues to live on when you’re able to sow  back into these kids.”

Des Moines Public Schools currently has 20 people in different stages of CDL training, a six to eight-week process. 

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