Education

Hamilton Heights School district fully staffed with bus drivers

ARCADIA, Ind. (WISH) — The Hamilton Heights school district is fully staffed with bus drivers despite other central Indiana school districts facing driver shortages.

Of the 2,291 students that Hamilton Heights serves, around 1,200 students ride the bus during the week for school. For the last two weeks, the public school district serving northern Hamilton County hasn’t had to worry about not being able to get their kids to and from school.

Superintendent Derek Arrowood said, “Our bus drivers seem to like driving here. We’ve got drivers that have come from other districts and say how much they enjoy our routes because they don’t have to double and triple their routes. They just drive one route.”

At one point, Arrowood had his license to drive school buses and would pick up and drop off students to combat the bus driver shortage.

“Occasionally, when we are really in need of a driver I will drive a route, but frankly that hasn’t had to happen often here lately,” Arrowood said.

The district’s transportation staff has 22 routes for drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), seven routes that don’t require CDLs, and three substitutes on staff with one person in training. They also continue to recruit and train new drivers.

Transportation Director Jaymie Wickstrom says the good retention is in part to an attentive administrative team. Even on a smaller scale, she said, appreciation for drivers can go a long way, especially when it comes to ensuring safety on the bus. “I think it’s important to be present for your people. When you get to the larger school districts you find that they lose that piece to be connected to their drivers and it’s very important to be able to work with them.”

She said the administrative staff is very supportive of their bus drivers.

Arrowood says the district tries to give competitive pay, but it’s not overpaying or doing anything more compared to any other district. So, he highlights the environment as being a good place to work as being the reason they’re no longer understaffed.

“They’re carrying our most precious resource, which is our kids, and so they take that very serious, but I think also they enjoy what they’re doing,” Arrowood said.