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Poway School District offers full benefits for bus drivers during shortage

Mike Damron
Seung Lee training to be a school bus driver, Poway, CA October 19, 2021

As with many school districts around San Diego County, bus routes in the Poway Unified School District have been cut this fall because of a shortage of drivers.

An aggressive recruitment effort is now underway and benefits are attracting some candidates to consider a career change.

The district is short of more than 40-school bus drivers needed to accommodate every student requiring transportation. Most of them are children with special needs.

Seung Lee is the parent of two children in the district. He’s also the owner of a property management and real estate company. He’s put that work on the back burner in order to train to become a driver.

“I’m doing this for my children, my daughter has special needs," he said. "I want to make sure they have transportation to school.”

Lee is one of a dozen trainees going through the Poway District transportation program, which is more comprehensive than required by the state. Applicants begin with 30 hours of classroom education followed by another 30 hours behind the wheel on the road.

A commercial license is not required to begin training. The classroom curriculum includes requirements to obtain a Class B commercial license with medical training and certification to drive a school bus.

M.G. Perez
Job banner for School Bus Drivers, Poway, CA, October 19, 2021

District officials are aggressively seeking applicants for the job with a starting pay rate of $19.30 an hour, topping off at $23.52 an hour. There are plenty of openings.

“With the start of this school year, we collapsed 12% of our routes which is 15 school buses off the road," said Timothy W. Purvis, the district’s director of transportation. "That's not because we didn’t need them but because we had to.”

Poway School District offers full benefits for bus drivers during shortage

Once trainees complete 60 hours of training, they are prepared to take the required California Highway Patrol driving test. Contracts for the part-time positions guarantee 5½ to 7 hours of work each weekday. More driving hours are possible with additional assignments for field trips throughout the school year.

Anyone interested in becoming a driver for the Poway Unified can apply on its website at or call (858) 679-2684.

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