Not long after approving a pay hike for school bus drivers, Evanston/Skokie District 65 is about to do the same thing for school bus aides.
Those aides keep an eye on the kids while the driver keeps an eye on the road.
Monday’s agenda for the school board finance committee includes a measure increasing bus aide pay by $1.85 per hour, from $13.65 to $15.50 for the rest of the current school year.
The board had previously raised driver pay by $2 per hour, putting that starting rate at $22.50. That deal also allowed for $100 weekly driver attendance bonuses.
In late 2021, drivers at Positive Connections, the bus contractor for District 65, threatened to quit unless they were given more money.
And they got those raises, because school bus drivers are hard to find. It’s the law of supply and demand.
That law applies to bus aides as well, who manage safety on the vehicles.
In a memo on the board committee agenda, Assistant Superintendent Terrance Little said “As part of the ongoing school transporation staff shortage, the district is experiencing long-term vacant and unfilled bus aide positions.”
Despite advertising the opportunities in the community and passing the word via school newsletters, Little said higher pay will have to be the answer.
The report does not project how much the bus aide pay hike is expected to cost the district.
The pay raise and bonuses for drivers were expected to add $360,000 to this school year’s transportation budget of more than $6 million.
Staffing shortages, and the skyrocketing price of fuel are “driving” the continually escalating transportation budget.
District 65 expects to signifcantly reduce busing costs once the new 5th Ward school opens, and attendance boundaries are redrawn so most students will be able to walk to school.
However, targeted completion for the 5th Ward building has been pushed from Fall, 2024 until Spring, 2025, which apparently means an additional year of busing expenses.