By Reg Chapman

ROBBINSDALE, Minn. (WCCO) — A critical shortage of bus drivers has one school district looking cross-country to hire drivers.

Right now in Robbinsdale training is underway. The school district hopes big incentives will pay off in the form of new drivers.

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The auditorium inside Robbinsdale Middle School is now a classroom for future bus drivers.

“We are struggling to find good qualified drivers that can take care of, course, our most precious resource, our kids, and get them to these schools,” said Jeff Connell.

Connell says like other districts across the state, Robbinsdale has a critical shortage of bus drivers. To change that, it’s working with Durham School Services bus company out of North Carolina. Hiring is their top priority.

“They have a whole system of not just recruitment but door to door, signage, promotional materials. They have even gone so far as to say, ‘We are flying in drivers from out of state, training them on how to work here in Minnesota and making them part of the regular pool until we can get local replacements through the hiring process,'” Connell said

“Oh, I love it,” said Jacob Romesburg.

Romesburg is from Missouri and has been training others since June. He’s ready to drive students on the first day of school.

He says getting use to streets in Minnesota was easier than he thought.

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“I found out fairly early on that with the roads being alphabetized, the north-south streets, it made is so easy. The east-west streets are all numbered and they get bigger as you go north, so once I figured that out then the rest of it came pretty easy,” said Romesburg.

Robbinsdale needs more than 110 drivers and is offering special incentives to get qualified applicants through the door.

“It’s a good wage, there are benefits, paid days off, insurance. Absolutely,” said Ruth Mattson, from Illinois.

Mattson says what typically was a part-time job for retirees and students is now a full-time opportunity to grow with a company.

Durham even pays for your bus driver training.

Signing bonuses are $2,000 without a commercial driver’s license and $5,000 if you do have a CDL.

Minneapolis, St. Paul, Burnsville and Osseo school districts are also short on bus drivers.

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Robbinsdale is holding an open house Aug. 29 where it hopes to find drivers for its special education routes.

Reg Chapman