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School bus driver retention remains a sticking point at SECPSD

South East Cornerstone Public School Division discusses bi-annual transportation report, faces bus drivers retention difficulties.
dual buses unload resize
File photo.

SOUTHEAST SASK. — The bi-annual transportation report for the South East Cornerstone Public School Division (SECPSD) was in the hands of transportation and facilities manager Andy Dobson on June 19.

Dobson spoke to the board members during their regular business session in the division’s head office in Weyburn.

The ongoing problem of retaining bus drivers was part of the presentation, with Dobson noting that one Wawota route had been eliminated due to lack of driver(s) and then later reinstated while another route in the Lampman area was merged with another, again due to the lack of a driver in the previous school year. The current unfilled routes are in the Weldon (Bienfait) and Estevan Comprehensive School routes as well as two in the Carlyle region.

A total of 1,213 routes were cancelled in the last half of this academic year, with 42 half-days lost due to mechanical needs and 249 full days due to weather along with 172 half-day route losses due to weather. The lack of a substitute driver accounted for 173 half days and 577 full days.

There are currently 155 transportation routes covered by the division’s buses, carrying 4,593 students, well over 50 per cent of the total student population with a 25,000 km total coverage on a daily basis. 

The average rural one-way ride time remains at approximately 48 minutes with the longest ride time being the Estevan/Torquay and Weyburn/Oungre routes at around 90 minutes.

Dobson noted that in the past school year the division acknowledged five driver resignations, two more drivers had passed away while 15 drivers came on board as newly hired. He added however that while recruitment was often fairly successful, drivers often switched roles to take up other positions, some in the school division as education assistants or caretakers for example. Retention has become a single concern he said.

Dobson also went over an extensive list of driver recruitment initiatives that included traditional areas such as newspapers, newsletters, recruitment fairs and trade shows, pamphlets, ads on various media platforms, and recruitment bonuses for current drivers and signing bonuses to conclude his remarks on this particular topic.