School districts continue to struggle with finding and retaining bus drivers amid a nationwide shortage, and the start of the new school year has once again put the problem into relief for officials. 

A study released Thursday by researchers at the University at Albany found that retaining bus drivers can go beyond simply boosting pay and benefits. 

The researchers at the university's Department of Educational Policy & Leadership surveyed 300 bus drivers from school districts across upstate New York. The finding: bus drivers want good benefits and compensation, but like anyone else, want meaning to their work. 

“These views did not seem to arise from an abstract motivation to work in a public service capacity, but rather reflected the drivers’ view that their jobs are meaningful work,” the researchers wrote. “Of note also was that drivers did not seem entirely convinced that their districts value them for the work they do.”

The survey was conducted by Brian Carey, a doctoral graduate who works for the Schodack Central School District and Susan Phillips, a professor of education policy and leadership and counseling psychology. 

Researchers suggested retention of bus drivers can be done through implementing formalized recognition programs, spotlighting drivers in opening day ceremonies, allowing drivers to take a larger role in the dsitrcit through job sharing or paid roles, such as teaching assistance. 

And they proposed including drivers in teams that work on student behavior. Drivers can also be engaged with how the job fits in with the school's overall mission of educating students. 

“As fall is upon us in districts we are faced with the ongoing challenges of staffing,” said Carey, who is also a business administrator for Schodack Central School District. “Many of us do not have enough drivers again this year, creating the problem again of making sure we are able to get all our students where they need to be. This research gives opportunities to districts to keep the drivers they have instead of having to always look for new employees.”

The full report and findings can be read here.