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Bus driver shortages plague area schools

Like its neighboring school systems in Harris and Troup County in Georgia, the Chambers County School District is short on bus drivers, according to Superintendent Casey Chambley.

However, Chambley said that to his knowledge, the school system has been able to fill all routes and hasn’t had any recent, major transportation delays.

“We have enough to fill all of our routes,” he said. “However, if we have a bus driver go down with COVID or get quarantined, we have had situations where we’ve had a hard time getting sub drivers. Some of our transportation department mechanics that have their bus license, they have been driving some of the routes, as well as our transportation director, Mr. Benji Mitchum. For the last week before we went out, I think he drove a route every day — the morning and the afternoon route. We’re all chipping in to get it done.”

Due to its own shortage of bus drivers, mostly caused by COVID-19, the Troup County School System announced that it may have to make adjustments to bus routes.

Superintendent Brian Shumate said the school system was short by roughly five bus drivers on Wednesday. To get every student picked up, it moved people around and made adjustments.

Assistant Superintendent Chip Medders said last year that TCSS had 15 substitute bus drivers. This year, it only has two.

“We do have a big push always to hire bus drivers,” Medders said.

The issue, according to Medders, is that TCSS bus drivers must have a CDL license, which takes about six weeks to obtain. Additionally, another week of training is required.

The TCSS may double up bus routes, meaning that after finishing their usual route, a driver may have to return to a school and cover a different route. Alternatively, two short routes may be combined with each other.

According to Justin Finney, Harris County School District’s assistant superintendent of business services and technology, the shortage of certified buses is a nationwide phenomenon.

“Though we started with a pool of certified drivers and backup drivers, currently there is a possibility of bus routes not being covered due to a variety of reasons, including COVID-19,” he said.

Harris County parents were recently warned by a press release that they should prepare for possible disruption in transportation service. When HCSD drivers aren’t able to cover their usual routes, the school system’s plan is to have available drivers complete their routes and then drive second routes for the absent drivers.

The press release says this could delay arrivals at school by one-and-a-half to two hours.

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