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Wanted: School bus drivers
BCC ready for CDL program changes
Barton Community College's Commercial Driver's License program will be located in the new complex to be built next to the Great Bend campus. - photo by photo courtesy Barton Community College

Barton Community College hopes to offer a program to train school bus drivers this summer.  Area school districts want more trained drivers, but there hasn’t been a lot of interest in becoming a driver, according to Mary Foley, executive director of Workforce Training and Economic Development at the college.

The college’s fleet for its Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Program includes a school bus donated by Fort Larned USD 495.

School administrators are hoping Barton will train bus drivers, which the districts will be happy to hire.

“We have lots of interest from school districts,” Foley said. “There is a huge need for school bus drivers. We’d be happy to train them.”

Meanwhile, Barton’s CDL Program is on schedule to meet new federal regulations that were supposed to go into effect in February of 2020 but that have been pushed back to 2022.

“We are moving ahead as scheduled,” Foley told BCC Trustees during their monthly study session on Tuesday. 

The staff for this program includes Maggie Tracy, program coordinator; Dave Roat, adjunct instructor; Mark Reed, Scott Halzle and Brett Grey, driving assistants; and Matt Connell and Mark Bogner, test examiners. 

In addition to the school bus, the college’s fleet for this program includes two Class A tractor-trailer combinations and a Class B truck.

The trucks all have manual transmissions so that drivers won’t be limited to only automatic vehicles on their licenses, she noted.

Tracy said one of the regulation changes means people will no longer be able to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles for testing. Anyone wanting to obtain a CDL or add an endorsement to a CDL credential must attend a certified training provider’s program.

Barton has been a CDL testing site since 2016. What started as a single class has now become a complete stand-alone program with two courses. That way, the college hopes to receive $600 per student from the Kansas Board of Regents in the future.

After an online course in driving theory, there is a behind-the-wheel course that prepares drivers for pre-trip tests, backing skills tests and road tests.

With the $600 per student reimbursement from the state, the college will be able to start saving for another semitrailer, Foley said. A used rig could cost $35,000 to $40,000, estimated Vice President of Administration Mark Dean.

“Our first truck was because of a very generous donor,” Tracy said. After that, the college looked for grant funding.

Barton provides training to approximately 75 students per year, although enrollment was down in 2020 when the DMV closed as part of the state’s COVID-19 response. 

“I don’t think when we started we had any idea how popular it would be,” Tracy said.