ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford Public Schools is in need of 30 new bus drivers before school starts in the fall, or they may have to cancel several routes.
Last year, a driver shortage forced RPS to do just that.
Executive Director of Transportation Michael Slife said he and his staff filled in where they could to keep cancelations to a minimum, and said this year the school district is offering thousands of dollars in bonuses – including a $4,000 sign-on bonus – pension and health insurance to attract drivers.
Slife says drivers must be 21 years old and have a CDL license, but said the district will help with that.
“We do all the training here, in-house, and it is all paid, so the physical and the different testing, we pick that up, too,” he said.
Catina Barnett has been behind the wheel of a school bus for 24 years and says the best art of the job is interacting with the students she picks up every day.
“You get students all day long that have had a rough home life, and you’re the positive light that brings a brighter day,” she said.
Barnett said being a bus driver has been a rewarding career.
“We help make the city function,” she said. “When we show up on time and we’re going, parents get to work on time. They get to their place of employment, where they need to go. They get to their appointments on time. We get their babies where they need to go and, then from there, one thing leads to another and the entire city is flowing like it should. And then, we close the day out by bringing their babies back to them, which gives them that family time that they need.”