Maryland school districts have struggled the last two years to hold on to their school bus operators in the middle of a nationwide shortage. Montgomery County is hoping a few more bucks in drivers’ pockets will keep them at the wheel.
Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight said school bus drivers will once again receive a $25 bonus for each extra route driven. If there’s an extra route in the morning and another in the afternoon that would add $50 a day to the operator’s pay.
The bonuses were paid during part of the last school year but were terminated at the end of the school year.
“… we are committed to ensuring our students get to and from school safely each day,” McKnight said in a message to the community.
Unexpected driver absences led to a handful of route cancellations this school year. Of the more than 59,000 routes driven, 114 were canceled.
To boost safety, the school system is also planning to establish a “Sweeper Bus” program. Under this program, a bus would drive to areas to pick up any students whose families did not receive school system alerts about route cancellations.
Community engagement officers will also be notified of canceled or delayed routes, so that patrols could be made in those areas.
McKnight’s letter to the community also said the county is continuing its campaign to recruit new school bus operators; currently, 37 are in training.
Montgomery County, the state’s largest school district, has struggled to staff every bus route each day — a problem that is familiar in Prince George’s, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.