Every morning and afternoon bus driver Gary Jackson takes in the beauty of Ahwatukee Foothills' scenic Pecos Road on the way to his first stop from Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary.
Before greeting each and every child as they get on and off the bus with a “hey, how are you?” or “see you later,” Jackson took a moment to take in the mountains on Thursday’s overcast sky.
“This is the best part of the drive,” said Jackson, now in his fifth year of driving for the Kyrene School District.
An Ahwatukee resident and parent of a Sierra student, Jackson said being a bus driver is kind of like working in day care being a delivery driver.
“Basically you’re on schedule to deliver, and you’re delivering kids,” Jackson said with a laugh.
Every morning and afternoon Jackson goes through routine checks on his bus, testing lights, cleaning the interior, checking brakes and other precautions before he sets out for his route that includes about six stops for nearly 40 students.
“My daughter is on my bus and I know a lot of the neighborhood kids too, so that makes it nice,” Jackson added.
The district is currently looking for bus drivers in all of its 25 elementary and middle schools. Drivers work on split schedules, which is a few hours in the morning and afternoon.
“We find the best applicant for the split schedule is retirees or college students,” said transportation supervisor Rusty Bingham.
Ideal candidates would also be stay-at-home parents, according to Jackson, who was also a stay-at-home dad when he started bus driving.
“(The schedule) was great for that, because I was off work when they were out of school,” Jackson said.
Applicants would need a clean driving record and be able to pass the test for a commercial driver’s license, Bingham said. Training includes one week of classes and 20 hours of driving training for state laws and bus procedures.
“This is the easy part,” Jackson said as he walked to his bus, No. 67, before his afternoon route’s maintenance check.
As students loaded on to the bus Thursday after school, passing their familiar driver, Jackson made sure everyone was in their seat.
“You definitely need patience and a memory for names,” Jackson said. “I’ve got a great memory for faces, I need one for names.”
To apply for a bus driving position, visit the district website at kyrene.org and click on “employment opportunities” in the support staff category or call the Transportation Department for questions at (480) 541-1700.
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