MILWAUKEE — The search for MPS school bus drivers is on after the pandemic caused a shortage that left officials scrambling to get students back to the classroom last school year. One by one, school bus driver candidates took a crack at driving a 40-foot bus, in hopes of securing a job within Milwaukee Public Schools.
"I was nervous, but once I got behind the wheel, it was easy," said one candidate, Surina Semons.
"Hopefully I get the job. If I do, it'll be nice to be a school bus driver," said another, Sheena Ellis.
MPS officials say they need about 900 drivers in order to get more than 40,000 students to and from school. And there's no time to waste.
"It takes between one and three months to actually get a driver behind the wheel, from the point of application to the point of servicing students," said David Solik-Fifarek, the senior director of business and transportation services for MPS.
The push to get more drivers comes after parents scrambled to get kids to school when pandemic restrictions lifted in April. More than 80 buses and dozens of routes were canceled due to driver shortages.
"It did give us a glimpse into best practices for the district and how we are going to refine that approach come the fall of 2021," said Solik-Fifarek.
That's why First Student, a bus company that contracts with MPS, is doing everything it can to make sure something like that never happens again.
"We are looking for drivers to play the part, and be a part of our team for this upcoming school year. We have a lot of openings, and there's a lot of opportunities, and we just want to get that out to the public," said location manager, Samuel Brown.
Officials add candidates must be at least 21 years old and have a driver's license with three years of experience to qualify.