Wheels on the bus can be tracked by parents

File. Ryan Saettel, a bus driver for Perrysburg Schools, pulls into the bus garage.

PERRYSBURG – The school bus fleet is in good shape, but now there is a shortage of drivers.

James Mapus, executive director of operations, gave an update on capital improvement projects at the Dec. 20 board of education meeting.

He followed with an update on the national bus driver shortage and the way Perrysburg Schools has been working with it.

“It’s a national problem. No one can find drivers,” Mapus said. “Courtney Parr, our director of transportation, is really good at keeping our buses going. We haven’t had to cancel too many buses. There are many school districts, and I feel for them.

“She’s been able to be creative and keep people in the seats, but for us, here at the district, we have a lot of drivers who are retired and this is a second career for them. So they drive for 10 or 15 years and they give it up,” Mapus said. “It’s a part-time job, and a really good part-time job, but it’s really hard to raise a family off of.”

There is a job fair at Perrysburg Schools on Jan. 27, from 3-5 p.m. at the central office building.

Mapus said there are openings for bus drivers, along with paraprofessionals, teachers, substitute teachers and custodians. There will be both full and part-time jobs available.

“The qualifications for school bus driving pretty much stay the same every year, with some tweaking,” Mapus said. “This year the state of Ohio is waiving some of the testing for commercial driver’s licenses, if you’re going to be a school bus driving and as long as you’re not leaving Ohio.”

Mapus said that many of the substitute teacher positions often become full time, because they are a larger district that has people retiring and changing positions regularly.

“We know that (busing) is the safest means of transportation. We realize that there’s a shortage of drivers everywhere. Our community has been really understanding,” Mapus said. “If the bus runs 15 minutes late, people have been really supportive and we appreciate that”

The district has had buses run late, but unlike many other districts there haven’t yet been any full route cancelations. Mapus compared the rearrangement of bus routes to building a jigsaw puzzle, with drivers swapping and exchanging parts of each others routes, a process that he said is only possible because of the relatively large size of the district.

From a capital improvement and financial end of the bus situation, bus replacement is on-going as payments continue to be made.

Mapus is also the former transportation director. He managed the project when it was started.

When Perrysburg officials approached the concept of replacement, they decided to also start replacing the diesel buses with more environmentally friendly propane engine buses.

“The reason we decided to go away from it was, one, there were incentives from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to take the buses and all the new emissions we had to meet with diesels. We were having a lot of problems with all the sensors and systems that were put in place to deal with bad gasses and emissions from the diesel engines,” Mapus said.

The new buses have a V-10 Rausch motor that is made in Detroit.

“We’ve actually been up to the plant,” Mapus said. “The great thing about it is we don’t use much oil, the maintenance is low and the cost of propane is cheaper than diesel.”

Some of the traded-in buses were as old as 1995.

The buses are $92,000 each, with payments of $186,000 per year, split into two payments. One payment is from the General Fund and the other from Permanent Improvement.

The district is two years into the lease-to-buy loan from Huntington Bank. They have the 12 buses being financed over six years, with four years remaining.