At the school board meeting on Monday, there was discussion about the vital need for school bus drivers. It seems that there has been a shortage in recent years, not just in our district, but throughout the area for bus drivers. This saddened me to an extent, because I remember very fondly the bus drivers who caringly drove me, my family and fellow students to school each day.
This summer, at the All-School Reunion program, one of those bus drivers was in attendance and honored as being the driver present with the most years of bus driving. Juel Stenson was recognized at the program and commented that "those were the best years of my life."
I started to think back to the drivers we have had over the years and realized that many were business owners, self-employed or semi-retired. Others had jobs that either allowed them the hours off to drive or worked around that schedule. These are not easy attributes to find today in small towns.
For one thing, we have less main street businesses and thus fewer business owners with time to drive. There are fewer jobs locally that allow an employee to be gone for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Basically, there is just a smaller pool of candidates to pick from for bus drivers.
School bus drivers are a very special type of person. They are patient, love children, dedicated and committed to safety. They often become good friends and supporters of the children they see each day. They follow them in sports, music events and, at times, even remember them for other special days. Graduation usually isn't even the end of a child's relationship with their bus driver. I recall my bus drivers, Bub Sloneker and Juel Stenson, offering words of encouragement, praise and even consoling me long after I graduated from high school.
Driving school bus does take a special type of person and there may be more demand than supply, but I know there are people out there who can do this job. I encourage those with the time, desire and simple love of children to give it a try. The rewards through new friendships will far outweigh any other compensation.