All 24 of Joe Gilbert's buses are ready for the road.
But finding drivers to fill the seats is becoming more challenging.
Gilbert and his wife, Edwina, said that they have drivers hired for the regular bus routes. "We're looking for subs for field trips. We have had problems with hiring," they said. In order to be a bus driver you must have a clean driving record, five years driving experience, be drug free, and have no criminal convictions. The starting pay, on average, is $15.50 per hour to work four to five hours per day.
"You have summer, evenings, weekends, and holidays off," said Joe Gilbert.
"The job is like if you are driving your car and have four kids in there acting up," said Edwina Gilbert.
Gilbert, his son, Joey, and John Garvin have spent the summer preparing the buses for the first day of school on August 29. All of the mechanical parts have been inspected, the buses cleaned, and seats repaired. Gilbert said that graffiti and gum aren't big problems but vandalism is. "They poke holes and cut the seats. We also find food wrappers and a little gum. I hate lollipop sticks," said Joe Gilbert. "Gum is not as prevalent as it used to be due to dentists and moms. And gum is expensive."
"I had more windows damaged this year due to horseplay or rocks thrown at them. A bus window costs $100 including shipping and installation," he said.
He has been a bus contractor since 1987. For 15 years or so, a number of the buses have been equipped with security cameras. He also said that drivers have been terminated due to the cameras. Their offense was cell phone use. "It's against the law. They can use it for an emergency if they are pulled off the roadside with the brake set and flashers on," said Gilbert. He also said that bus discipline is also the job of school administrators. Drivers can't suspend children from a bus they are referred to principals.