by Sarah Snyder
ODESSA - The wheels on the bus are rolling out in full force. This time last year Ector County didn't have enough school bus drivers, but a vastly different economy means the district now has a full fleet.
"They tell you about their day, about their grades," said Cynthia Copley, a 16-Year ECISD Bus Driver. "They just talk to you about everything; problems at home - it's a rewarding job."
This week drivers hit the streets training for the new school year. The week is full of learning the local routes then a 20-hour state certification course. For the first time ECISD has a full staff of 150 drivers. This time last year they were hurting for workers.
"A lot of our office staff drove, our mechanics drove, our boss David Morris drove," Copley said. "We just did the best that we could."
"When you have a shortage of people it stretches your resources and you can't do quite as good of a job as you'd like to," David Morris, ECISD Director of Transportation said.
This summer they got over 100 applicants. They hired 23 new employees many from Ector County, but some came from as far away as Dallas and Del Rio.
"I think the economy is playing a major role in that," Morris said. "We're all aware that the unemployment rate is much higher than it was last year. A lot of people are seeking jobs and we're glad we're here as an alternative for those seeking employment."
The director tells us rule number one is safety.
And now with the technical training in the rearview mirror, the drivers are ready to pick up the students and head off into a new school year.
"You really get to know them," Copley said. "It's just like your own kids, really. I love my job."