South-Western City Schools officials plan to hire 11 full-time bus drivers in November to accommodate new routes as part of the restoration of busing services in the district, said transportation supervisor Tim Cox.

South-Western City Schools officials plan to hire 11 full-time bus drivers in November to accommodate new routes as part of the restoration of busing services in the district, said transportation supervisor Tim Cox.

Drivers made a dry run through newly scheduled high school routes Nov. 20, Cox said. Bus service is scheduled to be restored to last year's level on Nov. 30.

The restoration schedule will include the high school routes and shorter walk zones for students in intermediate, middle and elementary schools, Cox said.

"We are now bringing back everything we had in the 2008-09 school year," he said.

Cuts approved by school board members in February, which took effect as a result of operating levy failures in May and August, included the elimination of busing to students in all four South-Western high schools and the expansion of walk zones from one mile to about 1.5 miles for students in kindergarten through eighth grades, Cox said.

The cuts shrunk the number of students eligible to ride a bus by about 6,200. Also, the transportation department froze hiring. At the start of the school year in August, 11 positions had not been filled, Cox said.

He said eight of the 11 positions were vacated by retiring drivers, the other three drivers resigned for various reasons, he added.

With passage of a 7.4-mill continuous levy Nov. 3, those 11 positions will be filled.

Cox said the school district transportation department will hold a job fair from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 25 at the transportation office, 3427 Southwest Blvd., to find drivers.

South-Western bus drivers make a minimum of $16.39 per hour, Cox said.

"It takes a people person to be a good bus driver," he added.

Drivers must pass several tests administered by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles before becoming eligible to work as a bus driver.

Also, they go through a training period with school district drivers, Cox said.

Members of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 211, the support staff union, which includes bus drivers, had to approve the move to hire new drivers.

Cox said he held three meetings with about 10 drivers of varying experience levels to discuss the restoration of busing.

Cox said he and union drivers agreed that any bus driver can bid on the new routes established by the busing restoration.

"The union has worked extremely well with us and us with them," he said. "It's a two-way street."

Cuts to busing not only created a concern for students and parents, it affected the drivers, as well, Cox said.

"I think there was some concern," he said. "The morale was really low when the levy failed."

Naturally, morale "is really positive" now with the passage of the levy and restoration of busing, Cox said. Drivers were pleased to be part of the restoration plan, as well, he added.

The Ohio Department of Education calculates the district's transportation efficiency rating based on several numbers filed in a report each year by Cox. An adequate rating is 1.

In the 2007-08 school year, the district's rating was 1.42. The following year it was 1.28. Both numbers ranked as the highest transportation efficiency ratings among the eight largest school districts in the state, Cox said.

He said he feared the rating "would not be as good as it was" with busing cuts. He has until Jan. 31 to amend his report for the school year, however.

"Without high school, we're not quite as efficient as we will be with high school," Cox said.