Not Enough School Bus Drivers In Wamego

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Wamego is facing a School Bus Driver Shortage. At Monday’s USD 320 Board of Education meeting, Transportation Director Larry Hannan went over a list of things that keep him up at night. He said USD 320 has had little luck in recruiting school bus drivers, which has resulted in a decrease in drivers and routes. He noted there have been two (2) resignations, which increased the problem going forward due to the anticipated increase in the student population, expected to be 14 percent over the next 7 years in Pottawatomie County.

He cited the pay levels for drivers is lower than other school districts, and felt this fact and no health insurance offering could be a factor. He presented several scenarios and recommendations. After a lot of questions and answers, Board Member Mark Bettencourt made the motion to increase the bus drivers pay by 20 percent. The motion carried 4 to 2 with Board Members Richard Weixelman and Richie Chrest opposed. Superintendent Denise O’Dea said the health insurance issue may have to be addressed next year when mandates are imposed. She said the board’s vote was a start, and it may need to be adjusted.

Wamego’s schools buses will be fitted with cameras. Transportation Director Larry Hannan brought the camera issue back to the board for a decision. He was given the green light to further research the issue three (3) months ago, and brought back the specifications and bids received. He said the bid from Gate Keepers was much less than the other bid received.

Hannan recommended equipping all the districts buses, which would be 14-two camera systems for the large buses, and 4-1 camera systems for the smaller buses. He said this would increase both student and bus driver security. Board member Richard Weixelman made the motion as stated for a cost of over 15-thousand dollars. The motion carried with a vote of 4 to 2, with Board Members Mike Malin and Richie Chrest opposed.

In other business, the board approved the revisions to the Staff and Student handbooks for all the schools within the district for the coming school year. Also, since this is the last board meeting of this school year, Superintendent Denise O’Dea recognized outgoing board members Mike Malin and Phil Wethington, for their years of service to the board, and board member Amy Schwein (sch win) for her service as Vice President last year and her re-election to the board.

Wamego’s USD 320 Schools have been recognized in both academics and athletics. Coach Rick Patton introduced the State Golf and State Track Qualifiers and their coaches. He said those graduating will be continuing their sport in the college of their choice. Board President Phil Wethington announced that Coach Patton was awarded the honor of 4A Track Coach of the Year.

As principal of Wamego Middle School, Vici (Vickie) Jennings accepted the award from the Kansas Association of Middle Schools as a High Performing School. This is the fourth year in a row Wamego Middle School has received this honor, which is based on last year’s assessments.