FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas – As school districts work to keep staff and students safe amid rising omicron variant cases, a shortage of bus drivers has officials in Fort Bend ISD looking to fill jobs.
“It’s been quite a challenge, you know, we’ve had some severe staffing deficiencies all year long, but that’s been going on nationally,” said Demetrius Martin, director of transportation for Fort Bend ISD.
Forty transportation employees called out sick Wednesday, district officials confirmed. It was not known how many of the 40 were out with COVID-19.
According to the district’s dashboard, 152 staff members and 200 students tested positive for COVID.
Still, Martin said the employees testing positive, coupled with an overall worker shortage, has created a “deficit” in the number of drivers needed to transport children in Fort Bend ISD.
“We knew that was going to put us at even more of a deficit as far as covering the routes and transporting students,” Martin said.
District officials notified parents of the shortage Tuesday in an email. Classes resumed from winter break Wednesday.
“In providing this information, we hope to allow time for affected parents to determine if they will drive their child to and from school tomorrow or opt for alternative transportation,” wrote FBISD in a notice to parents.
Finding enough bus drivers to complete routes is a national concern.
The U.S. Department of Education announced this week a move by the Department of Transportation to give states the option of waiving a portion of the CDL license skill test that requires mechanical knowledge.
It was unclear Wednesday if Texas would opt into the waiver.
Back in Fort Bend, Martin said staff clean and sanitize buses multiple times a day, adding safety was paramount as he looked to fill 100 positions.
He said the district will work with those who have limited experience.
“Even if they don’t have a commercial driver’s license, we offer paid training so we can bring you up with just a regular license. And it’s a great opportunity,” Martin said.
Applications are available on FBISD’s website: https://www.fortbendisd.com/careers