Education notebook: Abilene ISD looking for a few good bus drivers, pre-K students – Abilene Reporter-News

A drive by Abilene High School, or a few other strategic locales around the city, could put you face to face with a school bus.

No, it’s not back to school yet. This bus is placed to help advertise the district’s glaring need for bus drivers.

Transportation Student Services Manager Kris Wilson said there are openings for 13 drivers, including 10 who already are certified to drive school buses.

Three of those openings, Wilson said, are for non-commercial driver license drivers who will operate smaller vehicles for the district.

There’s opportunities, once in the door, to train and receive a CDL if the interest is there.

In a typical year, Wilson said, positions would be open. But the COVID-19 pandemic may have led to higher turnover than normal, meaning they have more slots to fill.

“Our turnover has been slightly more this year than other years, but it hasn’t been significantly more,” he said. “The pandemic was not a major factor in the number of drivers we had. What it did was lessen the number of students who rode on the bus. So, we had an opportunity to combine a couple routes last year that we won’t be able to do this next year.”

Anyone interested in applying for any of the openings can call 325-698-1628.

Time, Wilson said, is running out for potential drivers who don’t currently hold a passenger and school bus endorsement on their CDL to earn eligibility.

With school quickly approaching, potential drivers need to train, which the district offers on site, Wilson said.

And it’s not just a job for older drivers, either. Wilson said the district has a few drivers in their 20s and 30s, who bring different skills to the job.

“They connect well with the kids and interact well,” he said. “They’re building relationships better than those of us quite a ways from that age. The kids trust them more because they’re much less removed from that experience themselves.”

Finding more pre-kindergarten students

If the AISD is to improve its depressed enrollment numbers experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, filling a number of open spots in its early childhood education programs would be helpful.

Though the program is not solely responsible for the significantly reduced figure that confounded administrators throughout the 2020-21 school year, Crockett Early Head Start and Long Early Learning Center participation was a major factor.

And there’s plenty of room this year for qualified families to join the ranks of the district’s youngest learners.

Registering is simple: There’s an open house set for two days later this week for interested and qualified parents.

From 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, at Long Early Learning Center, 3600 Sherry Lane, parents of little ones can check their eligibility and complete the registration process for the coming year.

According to district officials, there are 30 openings for programs at Crockett Early Head Start, which serves children birth to 3 years old. At Long ELC, which mostly serves as the pre-kindergarten program’s home, there are about 300 openings.

“We want to be full,” Director of Early Childhood Jenny Putnam said. “Last year was pretty hard. I think many parents were anxious about how the pre-k program was going to do. But we did it and we were successful.”

Aside from masking students, which AISD did for everyone in every school this past year, much of the same virus mitigation procedures will likely be employed, Putnam said.

Timothy Chipp covers education and is general assignments reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com