Tom Messinger

(Red Oak) -- Red Oak school officials are attempting to alleviate a huge problem in the district: a shortage of bus drivers.

Meeting in regular session Monday night, the Red Oak School Board heard an update on the district's transportation plans for the current school year. Superintendent Tom Messinger tells KMA News the district faces a severe shortage of drivers.

"We only have three route drivers," said Messinger. "What that means is that when it comes to extracurricular events, we are taking our student-athletes to different places a lot earlier than what the transportation request was for, just so that we can get the bus back here and put on a route."

Messinger says the district is offering several benefits to entice potential bus drivers to step forward.

"We are in desperate need of people to come forward," said Messinger. "We pay for the licensing process and have a very competitive salary as compared to the other schools in southwest Iowa. We could sure use some help."

Additionally, Messinger says the board approved a stipend program this summer aimed at retaining drivers for extracurricular routes.

"All you have to do is drive one time during the month and you get a $50 stipend that month," said Messinger. "So, there is some extra money that can come into play. We also increased the pay for our bus drivers by $6 per hour. We're like a lot of school districts. We are struggling to get drivers."

The board did approved substitute bus contracts for Robert Peterson, Michele Cockburn, Rasanne Vorhies, Nate Perrien and Tammi VanMeter during its meeting. Messinger says the district is also exploring hiring another maintenance worker to help with overtime and bus driving duties.

"We would bring this person on and have them get certified to drive a bus," said Messinger. "They would be a substitute for us to help out with those days that we have activities. We'll begin that process immediately, posting the opening and seeing what kind of applicants we get. Then at a future board meeting, we will hire an actual person on."

In other business, the board learned that the district has closed on the former InterTech Building at 604 South Broadway. With a purchase price of $225,000, the building will serve as a combined transportation, maintenance and administration building for the district.

Messinger was a guest on KMA's 7:05 Newscast Tuesday morning.  You can hear the full interview below.