The Estacada School board has approved a sign-on bonus and monthly stipend for bus drivers.

COURTESY PHOTO: STEVE HARVEY ON UNSPLASH  - The Estacada School District is working through a shortage of bus drivers.

Estacada School District leaders are collaborating with the local classified employee union to work through a shortage of bus drivers.

"We are already at stretch capacity with our current bus driver fleet," Estacada School District Superintendent Ryan Carpenter said during a board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 9, declaring the situation an emergency. "Across the United States of America, CDL drivers are at an all time low. The demands for a CDL driver is very competitive, because of the CDL drivers who do not already have a job, there are few of those people, let alone those working a split shift to drive a yellow bus with 80 kids at their back to and from school in the morning and the afternoon."

Carpenter praised the current employees of the district's transportation team, noting that, to his knowledge, during the first few days of the school year no student has been dropped off at the wrong bus stop, and no stops have been missed.

"We have a very faithful, committed and devoted transportation team, who are doing everything they can to make sure we're picking up and dropping off students to and from school on time," Carpenter said.

During the Sept. 9 meeting, the Estacada School Board approved a memorandum of understanding between the district and the Oregon School Employees Association, the employee union for bus drivers and other classified employees.

"The parties involved recognize the level of demand and scarcity in regards to qualified bus drivers throughout the state. This has created a crisis, as the district has been unable to secure qualified drivers to transport students safely to and from school," the memorandum noted.

Per the agreement, a $3,500 sign-on bonus for drivers will be implemented. The funds will be distributed in three increments: once a commercial drivers license is obtained, on the year anniversary date of hiring and 18 months from the hiring date.

Additionally, for the 2021-22 fiscal year, a $200 per month temporary market adjustment stipend for all newly hired and current school bus drivers will be implemented.

A new position will be added for instances when CDL drivers are unavailable. The type 10 driver will be on-call as needed to drive ten or six passenger vans.

If the district is unable to hire or retain enough drivers to transport students, the district can temporarily contract with an outside agency until those positions within the district are able to be filled.

"The estimated financial impact will vary based on hiring of employees and/or contracting services. The estimated cost of the sign-on bonus and the market adjustment stipend will not exceed $75,000 with a portion of the sign-on bonus crossing into our next fiscal year. If the district has to hire a contractor and the cost is over $50,000 we will bring it to the board for approval," the memorandum read.

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