The school system needs bus drivers | Education

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“We need bus drivers,” Safe Schools principal Alan Justice said at the Transylvania County School Board meeting on Monday. With the school year starting in a few weeks and a number of school staff retiring, the Department of Justice said the current shortage of bus drivers could force changes to bus routes and schedules. buses for the 2022-2023 school year.

“The shortage of bus drivers is finally catching up with us,” Judge said in his transportation update to the school board. “We were able to get by for a number of years relying on (teaching assistants), sitters, etc. This year we really had to get creative.”

Justice does not believe the driver shortage will affect overall school bus service, but measures such as combining routes and changing student pick-up and drop-off times are likely.

“We’re at a point where we’re running out of options, and we may have to do double routes this year…a bus comes in, picks up the kids, takes one route, comes back and then takes another route,” Justice said.

Justice said the director of the Transport Information Management System (TIMS), Julie Roberts, had worked hard to avoid any major delays or changes to pupils getting to and from school.

“I would love to have (all the buses) on the road and pick up the kids, but we’re just at a point where we can’t do that,” he said.

Justice said being a bus driver is ideal for retirees or anyone who needs extra money and added that driver salaries have recently increased. Justice himself drives a bus whenever he can and while he likes it, he added that the school system “runs out of options”.

Following a question from board member Courtney Domokur, the judge explained that one of the main obstacles to hiring bus drivers is that the training required takes time.

“It takes three days of classroom work and three days on the road…it can take up to three and a half or four days now…it was a pretty straightforward process to get the permit,” he said . “(Now) you have to pass a DOT physical exam, get a license and hold that license for 15 days before you can get behind the wheel with the instructor…start to finish it takes about three months.”

Another factor is that the DMV representative that helps get bus driver certification is split between Transylvania, Hendersonville, and Polk counties.

Domokur asked about paying for the required training and certification and Justice replied that the courses are free, new drivers can be reimbursed for the CDL license and the DOT physical is paid for by the county.

“We do this for them as a sort of incentive to work for us,” he said.

Justice has added in the past that some potential drivers have quit after license and physical payment and one way to avoid this in the future is for the school system to pay half of the license upfront and if the driver remains employed by the county for at least six months, the other half will be reimbursed.

“It doesn’t happen very often, but I’ve tried to (take some steps) to make sure the money stays in our pocket,” he said.

The CDL license costs around $100 and the renewal fee is around $90.

While elementary, middle and high school students typically use separate buses, the Justice Department says some rural routes require combining grade levels to keep things running in a timely manner during the driver shortage.

Another factor that can limit possible drivers is that some bus drivers also serve as school caretakers, with some positions remaining vacant for years.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Justice said. “(Someone) comes in to be a caretaker and then finds out he has to drive a bus… It might not be something he wants to do, but we’re at a point where we just have to combine those positions .”

All updates and information about bus changes will be sent to parents well before school starts on August 29, according to Justice. B

According to board member Marty Griffin, bus drivers are one of the most important jobs in the school system.

Justice added that bus drivers see where students live when they drop them off and can alert school administrators if a student is potentially going through difficulties or needs any help.

Electric buses

Justice also provided an update on the electric bus charger, the delivery of which is scheduled for September or October. The bus garage sits on a 100 year old floodplain and is not ideal for storing the charger, so a new location is awaiting Duke Power approval.

In other business, Superintendent Jeff McDaris congratulated Jessica Kimzey, a 2022 BHS graduate, who received a $10,000 four-year scholarship from the State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation. Another update was that Technical Career Education Coordinator, Tanya Melton, has been named the Coordinator of Curriculum and Instructional Management for the Western North Carolina Region of the year.

Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and High School Curriculum Missy Ellenberger also provided an update on an updated list of reportable offenses and said the “Say Something” app used by students to report concerning or suspicious activity is back online. Ellenberger said since November last year, 142 tips were reported and while some situations may be exaggerated or misunderstood, the mobile phone app has provided school administrators with an effective tool to monitor mental and physical health. students.

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