PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It's a battle for bus drivers between school districts and the bigger district could win.
Pittsburgh Public Schools is offering sign-on bonuses to lure bus drivers, but this incentive could affect surrounding districts like McKeesport Area School District. The superintendent said he's concerned some of his bus drivers might jump ship leaving some of his kids without a ride to school.
David Sunstein owns several bus companies in the area, including Pennsylvania Coach Lines, which serves McKeesport Area School District, but he says some of those drivers are going elsewhere.
"As of today, our concern is Pittsburgh which is now offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus," said Sunstein.
PPS confirms it's offering up to a $5,000 sign-on bonus to some of its bus drivers. Sunstein's other company, Sun Coach Lines, has a contract with PPS, so he says there's a chance a lot of his drivers for Pennsylvania Coach could leave the company, ultimately leaving McKeesport out to dry.
"The reality is if we don't offer this same program, these people are going to leave and go someplace else so I would rather have those people work for me instead of going someplace else," said Sunstein.
"I think it could take away from McKeesport School District, so I think it will be a little challenging trying to determine if we have enough drivers and transportation for our children when we open on Monday," said McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Mark Holtzman.
Sunstein said he has given McKeesport and other districts the opportunity to offer incentives, but Holtzman said the district isn't able to make that happen right now.
"That's where the challenge has lied, with trying to negotiate and discuss it with the school board as well as try to discuss it with PA Coach to try to convince them or give them incentives to be here at McKeesport financially. We can't compete with what Pittsburgh Public is offering," said Holtzman.
McKeesport parents like Turena Walker said she's not surprised this is happening, but she doesn't want to see kids left out in the cold.
"What's gonna happen if kids are left at the bus stop and no one picks them up?" said Walker.
If the district ends up losing drivers, Holtzman said he will do what he can to make sure every child has transportation to and from school.
The superintendent said he'd like to know as soon as possible if any of his drivers plan on jumping ship and heading to PPS so he can figure out the next steps.
"We have to be very creative in how we transport our kids, so if it's coming up with a hub concept or coming up with a concept to expand the walking zone or put more adults in the community to help kids cross the street," said Holtzman.
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