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To meet growing enrollment, Indian River District needs more bus drivers

Delaware Public Media

School district officials say enrollment is increasing, which means more buses and drivers are needed to get students from home to the classroom and back. At the Indian River School District, there’s an ongoing effort to meet that need.




The Indian River District has 160 buses, which means they need 160 drivers to steer the wheels. 


But transportation systems analyst Tyler Bryan reports they’re about 15 drivers short.


“Indian River School District’s enrollment has been increasing for the last five plus years and we’ve had to add additional routes each year in bus routes due to that growth,” Bryan said.


Jami Winterling said she took the job 25 years ago, and the smiles she sees on children’s faces each day is the reason she continues to do her job.


“You actually begin their day and you end their day, so if someone gets on the bus and someone’s not happy, there’s a problem, it’s kind of like you’re their second mom and you kind of help them handle that to begin the day, or end the day,” Winterling said.


On all the stories she has to tell, Winterling said, “I wish I would’ve written a book when I started doing this job!”


She recalls a story from about 15 years ago when a little boy got on the bus, clutching a brown bag to his chest. 


“There was a little bit of commotion in the seat and I didn’t know what was going on, but [the students] were like, ‘Ms. Jami, he’s got something in that bag,’” she said.


After she pulled up the bus at school and let all the children off, she stopped the little boy and asked him what was in the bag.


“And I was like ‘okay I’m going to gently open this bag because I don’t want anything to jump out at me because it was moving around,’” Winterling said.


She opened the bag and made eye contact with a baby kitten.


“It’s crazy things like that, like there could’ve been anything in that bag!” Winterling said. “It turned out that day to be something sweet and cute.”


It’s a rewarding job to interact with children every day, Winterling said, but it’s not for everyone.


Next school year, the Indian River District will add three additional bus routes. Bryan said it is essential they fill all the open positions so they can efficiently get students to and from schools without delays.


The district has a deal with over 40 private contractors who provide busing services, that are looking to hire more drivers.


“To be a bus driver you need to have a need to want to work with kids. You also need to be on time, responsible and professional,” Bryan said.


The contractors need to fill the 15 vacant positions before school starts.


Appoquinimink School District has reported a similar shortage.

Wendy Lapham, a spokeswoman for the Christina District said they are always looking for drivers but there is “not a severe issue in Christina at this time.”

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