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KPS now has a full roster of bus drivers for the school year

the back of two yellow school buses stopped next to a sidewalk
Sehvilla Mann
KPS had to cut school bus routes last year due to staff shortages. It has no plans to decrease the number of routes this year.

The school board voted this summer to increase starting pay for drivers by almost 30%.

Schools across the state — and country — struggled with a shortage of bus drivers last year. But Kalamazoo Public Schools seems to have solved the problem, at least for now.

KPS went from 100 school bus routes to 86 last year after having a hard time hiring and keeping qualified bus drivers. The school board voted in July to boost starting pay to $19 an hour, up from $14.60. Terri Aman, KPS Transportation Supervisor, said the more competitive pay has helped attract new employees and even draw some former drivers out of retirement.

“We had a number of drivers who had left us reluctantly to do other work because they needed more money who said, ‘Hey, I can I can make it on that now,’ and came back to us,” she said. “So that was really great for us as well.”

She said the increased pay is fair considering the challenges of the work.

“You have to pass a rigorous physical, you have to be able to pass a very difficult written test, you have to pass a very difficult driving test, just to get your license,” she said. “Then you're in a bus with 65 kids behind you.”

KPS has also added cameras to the outside of busses. The cameras will photograph the license plate of any vehicle that illegally passes the bus.

“We think it's going to be effective,” said Aman. It seems to be effective in other school districts, so we think it'll be effective here. But that's just another way to keep our kids safe, and to try to take a little bit of the stress level off of our drivers as well.”

The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety can now issue citations based on the camera footage. These can carry a fine up to $500.

Aman says KPS is hoping to release an app this year that will allow students and parents to track buses on their routes. It would also alert them to any delays or changes.