School bus drivers still sought

August 2, 2018

With less than a month until class starts, the Kankakee school district’s new bus contractor still needs about 10 to 15 drivers, its local manager said Tuesday.

It takes about three weeks to get a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, which is about what’s left until school opens Aug. 22, said Katie Cooper, Kankakee’s contract manager. The contractor has a little breathing room because a delay in construction at the high school means upperclassmen will start about two weeks late.

The contractor, Illinois Central, has been aggressive in recruiting bus drivers at a time when Kankakee County’s unemployment is less than 5 percent. Over the weekend, the company placed flyers on cars downtown during the Merchant Street Music Fest.

Illinois Central is offering $15 to $18.50 an hour, with a $1,000 hiring bonus. Drivers receive paid training, are paid weekly and are allowed to take their children along to work.

The company is describing the part-time jobs as perfect for retirees, stay-at-home parents and college students. It plans to have 65 drivers in the district.

In March, the Kankakee school board chose Illinois Central over First Student, the district’s existing bus contractor, even though First Student was the low bidder.

The district maintained First Student wasn’t efficient enough with routes, saying cutting the number of routes could save money.

School officials also clashed with First Student over disciplinary matters, accusing the company of refusing to hand over video to settle student disciplinary matters. The bus drivers union, however, defended First Student, saying the district ignored their complaints about behavioral issues.

About half of the district’s bus drivers did not stay with the new contractor, according to Illinois Central.

Illinois Central is a part of Joliet-based North American Central School Bus. According to its website, North American is the fourth largest school bus operator in the United States, serving students in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Massachusetts and Idaho.

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