Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Albuquerque Public Schools are facing a shortage of bus drivers even after the school year has officially started. Despite highly lucrative incentives such as competitive wages and benefits, APS still has a hard time filling chronically vacant driver positions. 

APS isn’t the only school district struggling to fill positions. Earlier this week the Associated Press reported that driver shortage is a national problem, and school districts are offering increasingly lucrative incentives to attract qualified candidates. Montana has offered a $4,000 sign-on bonus to school bus drivers, but few are biting. A Delaware school district has even offered to provide parents with a $700 stipend to drive their kids to school. APS isn’t ready to do that yet.

“It’s not a new problem,” Executive Director of Communications at APS Monica Armenta said. According to Armenta this has been a challenge school districts have faced for years. COVID has only exacerbated the shortage. “We are facing the same shortage that everyone in the nation is facing right now,” Armenta said. “We’ve been advertising those positions for at least a decade.”

According to Armenta APS currently has 230 bus drivers, but that’s not enough. They still have dozens of positions vacant. APS is also not the only one short of drivers; contractors who provide drivers for schools are also having difficulty hiring.

Armenta says the problem is attributed to an older workforce who have been apprehensive about returning due to mounting risks. APS drivers must also have a commercial truck license to operate a school bus. The job is also seasonal, which often makes the risks too high for older drivers. 

“The only solution right now before bus drivers are trained is to condense routes. We’re doing everything we possibly can, but the workforce just doesn’t exist,” Armenta said.

Similar to other school districts around the nation, APS is offering full benefits for seasonal drivers and the pay range is between $17 and $21 per hour. For those interested, job postings are on the APS website.  

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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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