School bus drivers needed, says Alexandria transportation director
On average, bus drivers drive 4,000 miles daily on routes with an additional 100,000 miles yearly for activity trips and summer school programs.
ALEXANDRIA — Scott Dahlin may have to be just as creative this school year as he was last year when it comes to busing students.
Dahlin, transportation director for Alexandria Public Schools, presented information to Alexandria School Board members at their regular meeting Monday night, July 18 .
“On a positive note, we did not deny any students transportation to participate in activities. We always had a bus there and got our students where they needed to be,” said Dahlin. “Our staff stepped up and everybody drove when needed. But we did have to get creative.”
Dahlin explained just how creative he was when he found himself in a situation where he couldn’t find any drivers.
“We had three buses from the middle school heading up to Brainerd for an event, but we had nobody to drive them,” he said. “So I called up to the Brainerd school district and asked what time they started their afternoon routes.”
When he was told they didn’t start until 2:40 p.m., he asked if the district had drivers willing to come to Alexandria to pick up the students that needed to be up there by 2:15 p.m., which would then allow the Alexandria bus drivers to do their regular afternoon routes. When they were done, the Alexandria drivers could head up to Brainerd to pick up the students when they were done with their activity and bring them back home.
“It worked and they said yes, that’s a great idea,” Dahlin said. “We’ve been doing a little trading back and forth and working with other districts to get our kids where they need to go and not miss out on any opportunities. It’s been great.”
Superintendent Rick Sansted applauded Dahlin for thinking outside the box to address his busing needs and issues.
“Thank you for your creativity last year and helping to get our kids not only to and from school, but also to and from activities,” Sanstead said.
Dahlin said the Alexandria transportation department currently has seven routes still open and that he has leads for three of them. And he also noted that he is always in need of substitute drivers, as well.
He also provided some facts and figures, including the following:
- During the 2020-21 school year, drivers drove just under 900,000 miles.
- On average, bus drivers drive 4,000 miles daily on routes with an additional 100,000 miles yearly for activity trips and summer school programs.
- There are roughly 3,000 students on daily routes with a goal of less than a 60-minute ride time.
- There are 350 square-miles within the school district that buses travel on.
- There are 36 and a half regular routes, eight special needs routes with paraprofessionals on the bus and one to two special education van routes.
- The shop has three staff members who not only maintain and repair 57 buses and nine vans, but also drive buses when needed.
Dahlin also praised his team for having excellent Minnesota Department of Transportation inspections and said his staff is doing an excellent job with their fleet of buses.
The driver shortage has been “very stressful,” he said, adding how proud he was of everyone in the department who stepped up to drive last year.
He is hoping, though, that the routes can be filled for this year so his staff can do their regular duties. It takes about four to five weeks to train new drivers, he said.
“We need to get them now, so they will be ready for school this fall,” he said.
Anyone 18 and older can become a bus driver. Interested parties should contact Dahlin at 320-762-3317.