Merced Union High School District seeking bus drivers

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comMay 18, 2014 

The Merced Union High School District still needs more part-time bus drivers.

Leonard Kahn, assistant superintendent for business services, said the district has hired eight new drivers but subsequently lost two of them to competing districts.

He is hoping to entice more people to complete the required training and said the possibility of adding health insurance to the job description is being explored.

Kahn said adding health insurance is something that must be negotiated with employee unions and ratified by the school board. The district pays for bus driver candidates to take the required 40-hour training offered by Merced Transportation.

Travis Kirk, the district’s director of facilities and transportation, said the district needs at least 10 new drivers. Six drivers successfully went through the program, which includes 40 hours of classroom time and at least 20 hours of behind-the-wheel training.

Bus driver candidates are interviewed and tested by the California Highway Patrol. Becoming a driver takes an investment of time but it’s worth it, Kirk said.

Kahn said three or four more bus routes will be needed this fall as El Capitan High School adds juniors to its enrollment. The north Merced school opened in fall 2013 with freshmen and sophomores only.

More drivers also are needed to restore afternoon bus service to the Winton area, Kahn said. The district serves nearly 10,000 students at campuses in Merced, Atwater and Livingston.

A little more than two years ago, trustees furloughed 15 full-time bus drivers to save more than $1 million on the 2012-13 budget. Ultimately, within several months, 13 of the 15 drivers were offered other classified job positions with the district.

Bus drivers can work 3.75 hours a day, Kahn said, but all drivers are working substantially more than that, close to the 30 hours a week that triggers the requirement of offering health care under the Affordable Care Act.

Kirk said those interested in a bus driver position are encouraged to contact the district’s transportation office at (209) 385-6463 for more information.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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