Slated to start running first week of December
By Kendra Walker
The Crested Butte Community School students who live in CB South are about to get a school bus again. Gunnison Watershed School District facilities and transportation director Paul Morgan shared an update with the school board on Monday, November 14, and said a new bus driver is currently in training and one week away from getting her license.
“The last couple years Crested Butte has not seen full school transportation,” said Morgan, noting the exception with one route for Mt. Crested Butte last year. “That’s about to change.”
Morgan said that with a driver finishing up training and one week away from getting licensed, he hopes to have a CB South route up and running the first week of December. Between the RTA morning bus still picking up students and the added district bus, Morgan said there will be basically two buses going from CB South to the school in the mornings, and one district bus coming back in the afternoons. “The afternoon gets a little difficult,” said Morgan, “our schedule doesn’t really work with RTA’s. Morgan said he is working with CBCS administration on other solutions.
Currently, the district has six bus routes, all of which are operating in Gunnison. The district can have up to 12 routes, and has a fleet of 17 school buses. “We have a great facility, we have great people dedicated to working for the district and a great budget for replacement and maintenance of our vehicles,” said Morgan. “However, the driver situation is very bleak. The reality is getting people to drive school buses.”
He continued, “My concern is we have an older population of drivers and we’re not getting any new people coming in. What’s the future look like next year, and the year after?”
Morgan said the school district only has four full-time drivers right now. “Filling in with administrative staff, mechanics, substitute drivers that can drive every once in a while, that’s how we are managing.”
Morgan noted that while the starting salary for school bus drivers is lower ($17.50/hour) than RTA drivers ($21.50/hour), the school district offers full benefits. “We have a great benefits package,” said Morgan.
Board member Dave Taylor agreed. “The health benefits are worth another $20 an hour. It has mystified me that we do not have more people taking advantage of that. It’s a lot of money and in-kind benefits for working four hours a day.”
Drivers are guaranteed two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, and the district also covers the training and testing for commercial driver’s license (CDL) certification.
Morgan recognized that driving an RTA bus is different from driving a school bus. “You have to love kids to drive a school bus. It takes a very special person to drive a school bus,” he said.
However, Morgan sang his praises for the current transportation team. “The people we have are top-notch people. They’re dedicated, it’s a really good team effort.”