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St. Johns County hopes to steer some toward new careers as school bus drivers

Potential drivers given chance to get behind the wheel on test track Saturday

Bethany Mewborn is a bus aide for St. Johns County schools. But she thinks shifting into the driver’s seat is in her future. “I love the kids and just being on the bus,” Mewborn said. “I want the extra experience. I just love what I do.”

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Bethany Mewborn is a bus aide for St. Johns County schools. But she thinks shifting into the driver’s seat is in her future.

“I love the kids and just being on the bus,” Mewborn said. “I want the extra experience. I just love what I do.”

Mewborn was among dozens of others on a test track Saturday on Gaines Road in St. Augustine, getting a hands-on experience of what it is like to drive a school bus.

“Being an aide and being on the bus, I watch a lot of the drivers and pick up on what they do,” she said.

“There is a hesitation,” said Phil Rizzo, St. Johns County Schools transportation assistant director. “[People say] ‘I don’t know if I can drive a bus. They look so big and there’s kids.’”

Rizzo said he planned this first-time event to help calm fears for those who might not be willing to give it a go at being a school bus driver otherwise.

“I was very intimidated, but it was not too bad,” said Mike Ruddy, who drove through the course. “It was a lot of looking in the mirrors to pay attention but [the instructor] made it simple.”

Rizzo said St. Johns County schools have all 247 bus routes covered. There is not a bus driver shortage. But he expects more routes may be needed as soon as next semester.

“Any given day, there are sick callouts, personal days off, family issues or people need to take the day off,” he said. “So, we just want to try to stay ahead of that.”

Dozens tried their hand at driving a school bus on a test track on Gaines Road in St. Augustine Saturday. (WJXT)

People were able to get on the practice course to see if this is a job for them.

They also had the chance to do a simulator to go through different scenarios a bus driver might encounter.

After the experience, Mewborn is certain about one thing.

“It feels like the right thing to do,” she said of potentially becoming a bus driver. “It’s the next move for me.”

Rizzo says the Starting salary for bus drivers in the district is $16 an hour.

All drivers will be paid during the more than 40 hours required of training leading up to the exam to earn a CDL license.

If you are interested, call (904) 547-8814.

All drivers will be paid during the more than 40 hours required of training leading up to the exam to earn a CDL license. (WJXT)

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