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Higher wages offered as Hampton Roads faces school bus driver shortage

Most Hampton Roads school division leaders have budgeted to pay bus drivers between $2 to $6 more this year.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — School division leaders across Hampton Roads are paying up to get more help behind the wheel!

Hundreds of bus drivers are still needed before September. In Virginia Beach, technicians are busy preparing buses for the first day of school. All that's needed now is more than 100 bus drivers.

"Right now we are probably about 140," said Virginia Beach City Public Schools Transportation Director James Lash. "However, we have about 25 that are ready to complete our program."

Lash is hopeful to fill many of those vacancies.

"It's looking better this year with improvements, salary, the benefits, and the things that were approved by the school board back in April," Lash said.

Most Hampton Roads school division leaders have budgeted to pay drivers between $2 to $6 more this year. Drivers can get the highest starting pay in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Hampton at about $21 an hour. Portsmouth has the lowest at $16.60 an hour.

"Anything and everything we can do to try and get people in the doors is what we are trying to do," said Chesapeake Public Schools Transportation Director David Benson.

Benson estimates Chesapeake is short about 121 drivers.

"We are advertising through flyers, pop-up job fairs where members of our HR department are showing up at sporting events," Benson said.

Many divisions are offering hefty sign-on bonuses. Newport News Public Schools officials said they need about 108 bus drivers.

"We are offering a $2,000 sign-on bonus for any drivers signing up to come on with us," said NNPS Transportation Director Nina Farrish.

And when classes start, school transportation leaders said parents have the option to drop their students off but drivers will also double up on their bus routes when needed.

"One message I like to send to parents is that we are always coming," Benson said. "We may be late getting them there, but we will have a bus that goes by every stop, every day."

"Please be patient, and make sure you stop for school buses when you see the red light flashing," Lash said.

School transportation leaders said it takes about four weeks of training to get a driver ready to operate a bus.

Most Hampton Roads school divisions are also offering referral incentives. See what each division is offering and how to apply:

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