Mohonasen Central School District in New York recently hosted an open house at its new facility in an effort to combat the school bus driver shortage it and districts nationwide have been facing.
Their event took place on Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to noon, and was open to anyone 21 and older. It was held at the district’s training room in the transportation garage. The facility opened nearly two years ago.
The event was established so that interested persons could come and get a hands-on idea of what driving a school bus was like. However, a commercial driver’s license was not required for the test drive.
The idea came forward after another district nearby had success with a similar idea. This prompted Randolph Jerreld, transportation director for Rotterdam-Mohonasen Central Schools, and his team to give an open house a try.
“It worked out pretty well. In our area, we would consider ourselves a medium-sized district, about 3,000 students and we got about 13 people to show up,” Jerreld said.
Jerreld said the turnout was better than he expected. “It was a bigger event than I expected it to be, to be honest,” he said.
The 13 individuals who participated were given applications to fill out, refreshments, and a chance to ask any questions they may have. Jerreld said this was an opportunity for them to ask questions about the job and that the district would perform interviews post open house. The final step was letting the visitors test drive the bus, while accompanied with a certified CDL district driver.
Jerreld said he saw a wide variety of demographics come, including women, stay at home moms, retirees and younger people in their 20s.
After the open house, the district followed-up with the individuals and Jerreld said everyone still seemed interested in becoming a school bus driver. The district has 12 out of the 13 people in attendance at the event returning for interviews.
However, Jerreld said the challenge is getting those who are interested drivers to go through the entire CDL training process.
According to the Mohonasen Central School District Transportation site, bus drivers in New York face “rigorous standards.” The DMV requires a process, which can take up to three months, that includes: obtaining a CDL license, completing background tests and examinations, completing biennial road tests, oral/written tests and being appointed by the local board of education.
“My thought is, if we can get 2-4 people out of the group, [who] go through the entire training,” Jerreld said, “then I know they are motivated and that they want the job. We pretty much end up hiring them at that point.”
Jerreld said that depending on how many hires he has from this first open house, he would consider holding the event again in the spring or summer.
“The funny thing is, the phone has continued to ring,” Jerreld said. “We have had an interest beyond the open house, that coupled with the publicity of this event, I am surprised with how big the response was. I wasn’t expecting this to be that big.”