GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Many school districts in West Michigan are dealing with a shortage of bus drivers as students return to the classroom.

Forest Hills Public Schools has raised starting pay to $21 per hour to bring in more employees.  

Tara Camillo is a bus driver in training at the district who decided to apply after hearing about the need. 

“It wakes me up every single morning knowing that I am needed. If I don’t show up these kids are not going to school or the parents are not happy,” Camillo said.

Todd Sharp, the director of transportation, said since pay was increased more than 20 drivers have answered the call to join the staff.

“We have not had to cancel a route yet. Granted, it’s day three of the new school year but we’re just very pleased that all of our routes are running,” Sharp said.

Drivers work a split shift dropping students off in the morning and returning to take them home in the afternoon. Some work other positions within the district to get additional hours during the school day.

Thornapple Kellogg Schools is also dealing with the shortage. The district had to consolidate routes and create a walking zone after nine drivers did not return from last school year, according to Superintendent Craig McCarthy.

“We’ve had a couple of drivers that decided to retire, we’ve had a couple of drivers that due to family issues they ended up having to stop working,” McCarthy said.

Since the route consolidations were announced, the district has seen additional applicants.

“We have had a number of applicants for the positions. We have interviewed candidates. All but one of the candidates is actually a Middleville resident,” McCarthy said.

Victor Humphrey was a stay-at-home dad in the district who will soon be driving a bus. He is currently going through the training program.

“I saw a post on Facebook of parents kind of going back and forth, both sides of the issue,” Humphrey said. “I looked at it as, ‘You know, I can,’ and I wanted to be part of the solution.”

The district expects the need for additional drivers to continue especially in such a competitive job market.

“I think there is always going to be a need and we are still, we’re not a full complement of drivers yet so we’re still trying to work through that and until we get full staffed we’re still going to have some of those condensed routes,” McCarthy said.