Shepherd Snyder Published

Bus Operator Shortage Focus Of House Bill

A yellow school bus driving away from a school.Cecelia Mason/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The House of Delegates’ Education Committee passed a bill Monday that would formally announce a bus operator shortage statewide. 

The bill would allow retired bus drivers to come back to work after their 140-day limit on employment. It’s a plan to make up for a statewide shortage of bus drivers after COVID-19 caused many to retire earlier than expected. In December, the state was operating with 300 fewer bus drivers than its normal average of 4,000.

It drew comparisons during discussion to a current policy in place for retired teachers. They would submit an affidavit to their county Board of Education that is sent to the state board for final approval.

During a state Board of Education meeting in November, it was reported that a waiver of state Policy 4336, which outlines school bus transportation regulations, had then only led to 16 bus drivers coming out of retirement or transferring their out of state certification. But legislators are hoping this bill’s passage can draw more attention to the shortage.

“There’s an extreme shortage of bus drivers in many of our counties, from kids sitting on multiple buses going to different schools, taking buses back to other schools, to kids having to sit on the floor because there’s no space for them,” said Del. Wayne Clark, R-Jefferson, vice chair of the House Education Committee.

The bill has been sent to the House Finance Committee for further review. If passed, it returns to the House floor with a recommendation that it be passed there as well.