‘We’re trying to get a big wow factor’: Henrico Schools to host ‘Drive the Bus’ event

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:46 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - With the start of school less than two months away, many school systems are concerned with how they are going to get kids to and from school.

Currently, there are hundreds of vacancies across metro-Richmond for school bus drivers.

Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) is hoping to change that, taking a hands-on approach on Saturday for a job fair.

“Every county everywhere needs drivers,” said HCPS Director of Transportation Jim Ellis. “But what is going to attract more drivers here to Henrico is what I was looking for.”

Ellis hopes to do that in a big way at Saturday’s job fair.

The Director of Transportation has had his CDL to drive a school bus since he was 16 years old. As a result, Ellis hopes to prevent people from saying a specific phrase.

“I could never drive a school bus,” he said. “But you haven’t tried it, you haven’t got on the bus.”

To test that theory out, NBC12 Henrico reporter Karina Bolster hopped behind the wheel, nerves and all!

Driving instructor Gregory Link said that is a common feeling for many, but driving a big yellow is all about getting out of your head.

“The challenge is you versus you,” Link said. “You’re going to come here again next time and [say] ‘I’m going to do better.’ That’s when it gets fun.”

Interested drivers will be able to get this hands-on experience with a trip around the Hermitage High School football stadium parking lot.

“We’re looking to hire a lot in a short amount of time,” Ellis said. “We’re trying to get a big ‘wow’ factor out there.”

“We’re going to go up to the road and you’re going to take a left turn,” Link said during the drive. “So, from here, you’re looking for your angle and your next move to make your left turn.”

While candidates will not have to drive through cones or go in reverse during the test run, the team hopes the flexibility of the job will attract new faces.

“It’s paid training,” Ellis said. “You’re going to get your summers off if you want them. We do summer school, so you can drive then. All the major holidays you’re off, you’re off two weeks at Christmas, get a spring break of a week. If you have children over a year, you can bring them on the bus with you.”

Currently, HCPS has around 100 vacancies for bus drivers, due to several retirements.

Those interested in getting behind the wheel of a bus on Saturday are required to have a valid Virginia driver’s license.

“We hope the parking lot is full and people are anxious to get out there and at least give it an opportunity,” Ellis said.

Participants will be able to learn about what it takes to be a school bus driver including learning about job duties, work schedules, pay and benefits.

Ellis said salaries are competitive to surrounding school systems, however, they are offering a $1,000 hiring bonus.

“It is broken up into two $500 increments,” he added. “Five hundred dollars your first couple of months, and then at the end of the year, you’ll get an additional $500. That’s certainly another incentive to come out and drive for us.”

Attendees will also be interviewed at the event if they are interested in a position.

The “Drive the Bus” event will take place Saturday, July 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hermitage High School. Those interested in attending are asked to fill out a registration form and then meeting in the parking lot in front of the football stadium.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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