Staff shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic are generating a sort of bidding war for bus drivers in New Jersey. An example of this state of affairs is the offer made by the South Orange/Maplewood district in Essex County. New hires $35 per hour, throwing in $1,000 signing bonuses and $500 for successful referrals.
According to nj.com, that is a higher rate than any of the 25 school bus companies and school districts spotted two weeks ago by NJ Advance Media advertising for bus drivers on Indeed.com.
At that time, South Orange/Maplewood was offering $30 per hour. This was the highest of the sampled school districts but slightly behind The Beloved Charter School in Jersey City, which was offering $33 per hour and $1,000 signing bonuses.
South Orange/Maplewood increased its incentive package after the K-12 district found itself without any substitute bus drivers and was forced to reassign transportation employees to cover for absences.
This is the latest school district making an aggressive push for new school bus drivers amid the shortage impacting many schools in New Jersey and nationwide.
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Richard Bozza, Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said the rising demand for bus drivers could create a “bidding war” among school districts.“That certainly will occur. The question is to what degree. A lot of these people live locally, and probably don’t want to go too far from home to work,” Bozza said.
Bozza added that school districts also face challenges from private companies, most notably Amazon, for drivers. “We’re in competition with a lot of people,” he said.
In Passaic County, the Wayne school district publicized last month a starting rate of between $26 to $28 per hour after losing about a dozen bus drivers, including some who are at least 70 years old and had cited COVID-19 concerns in deciding to leave.
School district officials in Toms River, in Ocean County, on Monday extended until Nov. 30 a $3,000 retention bonus for new hires who stay on the job for at least one year. The offer had been set to expire Sept. 30.