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Sooke School District looking for on-call bus drivers to combat shortage

The Sooke School District has 41 school bus drivers operating 41 routes and servicing more than 4,200 students.

“We have seven on-call drivers that are available to us,” said district superintendent Scott Stinson.

It seems like enough, but last year's cold and flu season exposed a crack in the road.

“[The month of] May seemed to be really difficult for us. The end of April as well,” said Stinson. “That was a really big time for illness and absence.”

It meant having to cancel dozens of routes, often on short notice.

The year is expected to be "an average to above-average respiratory virus disease season,” said Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre.

Conway says the Southern Hemisphere just got out of its flu season that saw slightly above-average numbers.

“It will include COVID,” said Conway. “COVID never went away.”

With that in mind, the Sooke School District is working on a plan to recruit more on-call bus drivers to avoid the same situation that happened at the tail end of last school year.

“It’s a low-cost option for people that are interested in coming back and working for us as drivers,” said Stinson.

Working with anyone who has their class 2 licence, the Sooke School District wants to provide training for those looking to get behind the wheel of a bus at the district's expense.

“We have a certified driver trainer so we’ll do in-class work with those people to support them, as well as give them experiences on our buses on the road,” said Stinson.

The driver will still need to take their final test through ICBC, yet this route will save the prospective driver money otherwise spent on training.

“I do applaud them,” said Dale Burgos, executive director of communications with the Nanaimo Ladysmith School District. “We know that districts across the province are having difficulty staffing.”

The Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District currently has half the amount of registered bus students as the Sooke district, employing 20 full-time bus drivers.

“We try as a district to have five to seven casuals on hand,” said Burgos.

That is the same amount of on-call drivers that the Sooke School District currently has.

The Nanaimo-Ladysmith district made it through last year's cold and flu season without one bus route cancellation.

The Sooke School District hopes to roll out its driver training program by the end of this school year, beefing up its reserves of on-call drivers by the start of next year. Top Stories

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