Greece Central School District one of many experiencing bus driver shortage

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GREECE, N.Y. (WHEC) — Go past almost any school district, and you will see a school bus parked out front draped with a "drivers wanted" sign.

Greece Central School District is no exception. With the clock ticking as the new school year is around the corner, News10NBC’s Jenny Ly went on a mission to find out what kind of training is required to get you behind the wheel for the start of the school year.

Jim Bloechl’s first day of school is a few weeks away. As a newly hired professional bus driver for Greece Central School District, he has the responsibility of transporting 40-60 kiddos on his bus, #444.

“I’m a little nervous. Nervous about all the stops, the students. I probably will not sleep the first night, as I’ll go through the route about a dozen times in my head the night before. It’s going to be a lot of first-day jitters,” Bloechl said.

Even as a former truck driver in his previous job, before Bloechl could get behind the wheel, he went through a rigorous eight-week training program.

“Training was way more intense. I spent probably spent two to three hours a day, five days a week with Toni driving being shown locations, being shown road hazards, how to handle them how to actually physically drive the bus,” he said.

As a trainer and safety coordinator with the school district, Toni Copenhagen ensures all her drivers cross their T’s and dot their I’s before every trip as part of her safety training.

“One of the biggest things is doing pre trips. It’s a DMV requirement, and it’s also Greece Central School District’s. You are checking every component on your bus making sure it’s safe for that drive. You do it every time you take the bus out,” Bloechl said.

The economic impact of COVID has caused a big staffing issue for the district.

Ly: "There has been such a big driver shortage, how is that impacting your job as a trainer, and how hard is it to find drivers to come work for you guys?"

Copenhagen: "I think the biggest impact that I feel as a driver trainer trying to be out there trying to train is that we have an obligation to get these kids back and forth to school every day."

Jim Bloechl says this is going to be a job unlike any other job he has had before

“I’ve driven large trucks before, and the first day [of training] made me rethink all the things that I knew. There is a lot more to just driving the bus let alone integrating children with the whole driving issue. It is my responsibility to get them where they need to be safely,” Bloechl said.

However, it will be a new job where his new coworkers get to call him “Mr. Jim.”

“It’s kind of one of those jobs that you’re not going to get rich doing the job, but you know in your heart you’re going to get rich. You’re going to be so satisfied dealing with these kids every day,” Copenhagen said.

Mary Beth Riola, Greece’s director of transportation, tells News10NBC’s Jenny Ly that they have been so desperate for drivers that they have been contracting with an outside company to get through the shortage.

If you are interested in becoming a professional bus driver for the district, you can click here.