ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Forest Hills Public Schools has raised its starting pay for bus drivers to $21 an hour as a way to respond to a national shortage.

Todd Sharp, the director of transportation at Forest Hills Public Schools, said the pay increase was needed to stay competitive.

“We’ve parked anywhere from a couple bus routes to I believe nine a week this last year due to the shortage of bus drivers,” Sharp said.

The district has been forced to cancel routes over the past few years.

“In all of my years I would have never dreamed that we would ever come to the point where we would actually share with the family, ‘I’m sorry but we cannot get your children to and from school,’” Sharp said.

The district also is providing a $1,500 sign on bonus, along with paid training and covering the testing cost for a commercial driver’s license.

“We have had several interested people apply. We’re in the training process now for some of those drivers,” Sharp said.

The department is looking for between eight and 10 more drivers for the fall. Existing drivers are receiving a pay raise with the hope of keeping them in the district and from being hired away by the shipping industry which is also looking for people with a CDL.

“The CDL requirements that you have to have to drive a school bus. They’re very similar to other types of transportation services,” Sharp said.

The pandemic has amplified the struggle to find reliable workers.

“We have some drivers who have chosen to step away. Retire a little bit earlier than what they initially had planned and we’ve had some drivers who just did not want to be in this setting. They just weren’t comfortable with the closeness,” Sharp said.

The goal is the pay bump will mean fewer buses taking up space.

“We’re very hopeful that we will have our positions filled before the start of the school year,” Sharp said.

To learn more information about the requirements and openings, visit the school district’s transportation page.