ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford Public Schools are taking steps to improve student’s education. Those involve a smoother ride to class and hiring bonuses to attract the best teachers.
All of that was approved at a school board meeting on Tuesday night. The district said that it was all about thinking outside of the box, and that labor shortages are forcing them to take a new approach when it comes to helping students.
“They aren’t looking at school bus drivers necessarily,” said Michael Slife, executive director of transportation for RPS 205.
Rockfore Public Schools got creative as they continue to deal with a nationwide bus driver shortage. School Board members approved a contract with ALC Student Transportation Solutions on Tuesday. The company helps find bus drivers who may not work with a traditional bussing company.
“It could be a local church, you could have a group of vans,” Slife said. “It could be a medical facility that uses vans at this time and this time, but isn’t at the time we would need.”
The hope is to provide rides for early childhood students. District leaders said that more than 200 students dropped the program this year because of a lack of transportation.
“Right now, we have many early childhood students that are waiting to get a ride, and cannot,” Slife said.
The board also approved an increased hiring incentive for certain teaching positions. Math, science and bilingual educators will now be eligible for a $5,000 signing bonus, while special education teachers could earn $7,000 for getting a job in the district.
“Those areas, math, science, bilingual, special ed. Those are going to be the traditional year-in, year-out, where we see those shortages,” said Matt Zediker, chief human resources officer for RPS 205.
RPS had previously offered a $3,000 incentive for those hard to fill positions.
“We saw some success with that, however we weren’t seeing the success that we needed, so we were still seeing vacancies when we started the new year,” Zediker said. “So, one strategy is going to be this hiring incentive, and is the splash of a little bit more money to come to our district going to be something that attracts folks.”
The district is expecting to have an extra 10 to 20 drivers per week through the newly approved transportation contract. As for the increased hiring incentive for teachers, $360,000 will be set aside in hopes of filling 60 vacancies.