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Central Wisconsin schools: There's a critical need for school bus drivers

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Lamers bus

WESTON, Wis. (WAOW) -- Area school districts have been struggling to find enough school bus drivers, and that could impact your kid getting to and from school. 

Earlier this week, the Wausau School District brought in reinforcements from Milwaukee; now, the D.C. Everest Area School District (DCE) is also asking for help. 

Officials with Lamers Bus Line, which provides service to DCE schools, said they have enough drivers for now, but are in critical need of more staffing. 

Wendi DeMars, who has been driving for Lamers for three years, also is the company's recruiting director. 

She said she's not sure why, but there are no active applications, and they're struggling to recruit new drivers. 

"We need drivers to come in, we need people to help with the community to get our kids to schools," she said. "We are on our way to not having enough if we can't recruit." 

To cover the district, Lamers needs 65 drivers in rotation; right now, they have 58, covering the company's 58 routes for DCE.

Matt Spets, assistant superintendent at DCE, said the company is doing what it can to make sure it meets its obligations.

"Even their office staff and anyone and everyone they have -- even the director herself -- that can drive a bus has been driving this year," he said. 

 If one driver calls out sick, that could put the company -- and the school district and students they serve -- in a dire situation. And, it could mean parents would have to take their children to school themselves.

Spets said the district and Lamers have a three-step plan in place if a driver does call in sick. 

First, Lamers would see if it could bring in a driver from one of its other hubs.

It that's not possible, they then would try to combine the canceled route with another, nearby one.

It those options don't work, parents would then have to step in and transport their children. 

"We would do anything that we could do and spare no effort to try to get people to school," Spets said. "So far, it's been good, but it's been pretty tight and we're just hoping to make it through the year, especially the winter." 

To bring in more drivers, Lamers is planning to host a hiring fair Monday. 

It will take place at the Lamers hub in Weston, 3805 Concord Ave. There will be an open house and a "Drive-the-Bus" job fair from 9 am to 4 pm.

The position pays $18.50/hour; test-drive registration can be found here: Job Fair Registration (jotform.com)

Job seekers will learn what it takes to become a school bus driver, plus immediately interview and test drive a school bus to see if they've got what it takes. 

Drivers are needed for daily school bus routes and after-school sports and activities.

Have story ideas? You can send them to slee@waow.com 

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