PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- School districts across Pennsylvania are dealing with a school bus driver shortage, which could mean longer rides and earlier bus stop times for students.
The Pennsylvania School Bus Association says it has about 3,500 job openings it's hoping to fill before the start of the school year.
The association, which works with 300 contractors to transport 80% of students across the state, says students will continue to feel the impact of the shortage.
"When the pandemic hit, it had already been a difficult situation," executive director Gerry Wosewick said of the shortage. "Students are going to have longer bus trips to get into school. Then, of course, the concern of them being late to school, then of course all of the factors of them getting up early."
The School District of Philadelphia says it needs to hire 105 bus chauffeurs to help transport the 33,000 students who use yellow school buses or school vehicles.
The district is hiring full-time chauffeurs at $21.58 an hour, which is about $45,000 a year.
"I think everything has improved across the board," said District Spokesperson Monique Braxton of the staffing shortage.
The district has 119,000 students who are eligible for transportation. Of that, about 33,000 used school buses or school vehicles to get to class.
When asked if the staffing shortage is going to affect whether kids will get to school, Braxton said, "No. Because we have contracted bus operators and they are ready to roll out."
The Upper Darby School District says it's also looking at potentially using contractors if it can't hire enough bus staff.
"We are definitely feeling the strain of the school bus driver and bus assistance shortage," said John Paul Loggia, the supervisor of transportation for the district.
Upper Darby officials say it offered bus staff a 14% raise for this school year, but still, it needs 10 more drivers and about 30 more assistants.
The district has been holding job fairs since last spring looking for candidates.
"We're calling assistants that apply individually. We're bringing them in, sitting down with them in person, going through the application, going through the clearances to help them through the process," said Loggia.
The School District of Philadelphia is also offering parents $300 a month to bring their kids to school through its parent flat rate program.
The district says 13,000 students are enrolled so far and open enrollment is going on now.