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May 14, 2014 3:36 PM by Dave Fields

Cooper: Proposal would remove education requirement for substitute bus drivers

The superintendent of Lafayette Parish Schools and his transportation director will pursue a new strategy to bring more qualified substitute bus drivers into the school system, the superintendent revealed Wednesday.

In light of Monday's incident in which a ten-year-old was left on Lafayette Parish school bus, Superintendent Pat Cooper says that he intends for his transportation director to propose to the school board next month to remove the education requirement for CDL drivers.

Cooper says that Lafayette Parish School System (LPSS) is in "dire shape" when it comes to a shortage of qualified substitute school bus drivers. Currently, LPSS Transportation Department personnel, including office workers, are required--just in case a substitute driver cannot be found--to possess a CDL in order to work in that department.

"We don't need to be taking people off of their day jobs," said Cooper, who said that Transportation Director Damon Evans will make the proposed change during the Lafayette Parish School Board (LPSB) meeting in June.

According to the proposal supported by the superintendent, all of the other minimum qualifications for substitute drivers would remain the same except for the requirement that substitute driver applicants possess at least a high school diploma. Cooper said that the pool of qualified applicants with CDL's would expand if applicants were no longer required to have obtained a high school diploma.

"If we change the policy and just require the CDL, I don't think we are lessening the safety of our children. These are the people who drive the big rigs up and down our highways. The CDL is the main requirement that qualifies them to drive the children back and forth to school every day," Cooper explained.

"There are plenty of people who would love to have a job driving a school bus," Cooper said.

Cooper also addressed critics who suggested that the consequences were too light for the substitute bus driver who left the child on the bus Monday, despite the fact that the driver reportedly completed a sweep of her school bus after her route was finished.

The superintendent said that the substitute driver, who also is a clerk in the transportation office, did not "mess up in her office job," he said. Cooper asserted that suspending the substitute driver for 20 days from her bus driving duties is the most appropriate response from the system.



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