City DopeNews

CCSD Has a Bus Driver Shortage

Stock photo by Laker via Pexels.

Like many school districts around the country, Clarke County doesn’t have enough bus drivers to cover its routes adequately. This shortage means sometimes children aren’t picked up at the usual time, which means they get to school or back home late. It also may mean bus drivers are handling multiple routes, driving back-to-back routes or consolidating routes, and children are sometimes sitting three to a seat or even standing in the bus aisle.

“We just don’t have any additional drivers right now,” said Selina Blankenship, CCSD’s director of human resources. The district has 119 routes and 119 drivers, and when a few people get sick, the whole system has to shift gears. “We are working on trying to recruit more drivers, but in a pandemic—well, it’s difficult. We recognize these are trying times. And we are working on what we might be able to do with bus drivers.”

To become a CCSD bus driver, you need to be able to pass a physical, hold a commercial driver’s license and pass a background check. In addition to receiving benefits, bus drivers have a starting pay of $16.29 an hour, with a guarantee of four hours of work a day. If they want to earn more, they can also work as custodians or paraprofessionals, said Blankenship. Drivers can also earn money by driving for field trips or athletic events.

“Without question, our drivers are unsung heroes who are dedicated to getting students to and from schools safely,” said Transportation Director Mark Weaver. “They are likely the first CCSD employee students see in the morning and the last one after school.”

The students on buses are required to wear masks and, said one bus driver, they do so without protest. Elementary students usually board wearing masks, he said, while middle school students take one when he offers it. Buses that transport special education students have bus monitors who help maintain decorum, but other buses, generally, don’t have monitors, Blankenship said.

One driver, who asked that his name not be used, said he doesn’t understand why CCSD offers the CDL training without mandating the trained drivers work for CCSD for at least a year or two. Although training for a CDL costs $2,500 to $3,000, if an individual pays for it, the district has on staff state-certified trainers who teach, monitor and certify new bus driver candidates.

District officials said that it’s rare for those who finish training and pass the physical and background checks not to work for CCSD. This year, the school district is giving $2,000 in appreciation to drivers who stay with the district the entire academic year, paying $1,000 in December and another $1,000 in May.

“I encourage everyone to consider the personal and societal benefits of driving children to school,” the driver said. “Both the needs and the rewards are great.”