The Wenatchee School District is dealing with a major budget shortfall but is still looking to hire bus drivers. 

The district is holding a job fare for bus drivers next Saturday as it prepares for a wave of driver retirements and requests for leave. 

District spokesperson Diana Haglund says there'll be staffing cuts to shore up the budget hole, but there's still a crucial need for bus drivers. 

"It's important that we recognize that we have to get students to school every day, back and forth, and to those events safely, and it's critical that we have adequate staffing to be able to provide those route circuits," said Haglund. 

The district already plans to close Columbia Elementary School to help meet a goal of cutting the budget by $8.6 million before the next school year. 

The closure is estimated to save $3 million, which will be realized through the drop in staffing it'll bring. About 80 percent of district expenditures go to pay for employees, which means job cuts and retirements will play a major role in shoring up the budget. 

The district says the staffing cuts will bring staffing levels in line for the drop in enrollment it's experienced over the last number of years. 

Still, additional bus drivers are needed to cover for staff on leave and to ensure that there are enough drivers available for the upcoming busy spring sports and field trip season and into the next school year. Wenatchee School's transportation director Jennifer Sea said the district is looking to fill a training class as soon as possible.  

Haglund says the upcoming job fare for bus drivers will give people in attendance a chance to meet drivers and transportation staff, and even test drive a bus. 

"One unique thing about the event that they're doing is they're allowing people to get behind the wheel of a bus and test drive that in their parking lot in that controlled environment," Haglund said. "But they really wanted to give people a sense of what it's actually like to have a career as a bus driver and be behind the wheel." 

Bus driver pay in the Wenatchee School District starts at $24.96 per hour, plus full medical and dental benefits.  

Training is paid, and there's a flexible schedule with summers and holidays off.  

Optional weekends and evening shifts are available.  

The job fare for bus drivers takes place Saturday, March 9, from 9 AM to noon at the transportation department building, located at 1201 Millerdale Ave, Wenatchee. 

Interested candidates can also apply on WSD’s transportation department website 

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