When James Beaudoin goes to work each morning in Nelson to pick up his school bus, he knows that he is directly supporting a child’s education, social and physical well being.
“Being a bus driver is an important job, and the feeling of being needed and helping my community is very fulfilling. In some cases, we are the first smile that a child will see at the start of their day. Without our support, many kids would have a lot of roadblocks in the way to get to school.”
Beaudoin is one of 45 school bus drivers in School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) (SD8) who take their jobs very seriously — the safety of hundreds of students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are in their hands every day. James arrives at work in Nelson at 7 a.m. to start his run and finishes his morning shift by about 9 a.m. He picks up his bus again at 2 p.m. and drops his last students off in their home neighbourhoods by about 4 p.m. He also covers extra shifts driving for field trips and school outings as needed.
“Driving a bus is a great part-time job for anyone who wants flexibility in their schedule, as well as weekends, holidays and summers off,” says Lisa Phillips, Manager of Operations for SD8 out of the Creston office.
“Right now, our biggest issue is that people just aren’t applying. A lot of sectors are short of workers right now, but I think many people haven’t considered that driving a school bus might be an ideal option for them.”
School bus drivers at SD8 come from a variety of employment backgrounds. They may be retired and want to earn extra income or to be more involved in their community; they may be parents or caregivers of school aged children who need flexible work hours; or they may have been in trucking or transportation already but want to work closer to home with full benefits and a pension to take into retirement.
“I hear about people driving an Uber or working for DoorDash to earn extra income in bigger communities, but we have a much better option right here in the rural Kootenays. You can earn money safely delivering students to school and back and make a big difference in their lives at the same time,” says Phillips.
School bus drivers are unionized and can earn benefits provided after reaching certain hours of service.
All drivers must hold a Class 2 licence and undergo a criminal record check.
“At the end of the day, I know what I do supports kids to learn, and that my bus is a safe space for everyone who rides with me,” says Beaudoin.
“I get to enjoy the little kiddos thanking me for the ride every day, building relationships and watching them grow, and seeing those kids in the community and having them greet me with a big smile.”
Photo Caption: School bus drivers James Beaudoin and Val Evans are ready to drive SD8 students safely to school in the West Kootenay. Perks of the job include flexibility, benefits, a good pension plan and smiles from children every morning and afternoon. — Submitted