WENATCHEE — It’s not unusual for school districts to have a bus driver shortage — at the beginning of the school year. But when the shortage happens in the middle of the school year, you can bet it is pandemic-related.

Such is the case for the Wenatchee School District.

“We did lose some drivers who decided not to return to work or who were in a category at risk and decided they were going to stay home,” said district spokeswoman Diana Haglund. “So we have a few more openings than during the school year.”

The school district is experiencing a shortage of drivers and it comes during an increase in routes as more students return to school this month, said district Transportation Director Jennifer Lagadinos. There is a real sense of urgency to recruit and train new bus drivers, she said.

“Everyone in our department that is able to drive a bus, from mechanics to office staff, is preparing to do double duty right now,” Lagadinos in a news release earlier this month.

Haglund said the district needs more drivers because it is not putting elementary and secondary students on the same buses and the hybrid class schedule has added bus runs. And when sports start back up, bus drivers will be needed for that too.

The district pays drivers $21.45 an hour and if a driver gets a contract they are eligible for district benefits.

For more information or to apply, contact the WSD Transportation Department at 662-6168 or visit wenatcheeschools.org/transportation.