SUMTER CO., GA (WALB) - Getting students to and from school is becoming a little more difficult in Sumter County.
The district is in desperate need of bus drivers, and with several open vacancies, the system's transportation department is working hard to recruit and train drivers as soon as possible.
Bus driver Dot Crook is no stranger to being behind the wheel of a school bus. She became a driver in 1979.
"So I had a friend who said, 'why don't you drive a school bus?' I said 'I can't do that!' She said 'Yes, you can!' I got in it, and I never wanted to get out," said Crook.
She hasn't. She's one of the longest-term drivers for Sumter County Schools. She retired in 2011, but she just can't stay away.
Right now, the school system needs dedication like hers. It's facing a driver shortage, and is currently in need of seven more drivers.
"We're having to double work some of our drivers. We're driving. The mechanics are driving," said Tracy Monts, transportation director for Sumter County Schools.
It's a problem the district faced at the beginning of the last school year, as well. Transportation officials said it's the pay that keeps a lot of people away.
"Everyone is needing more money, so therefore they're going out looking for jobs that are paying more money," said Derether Harris, transportation routing clerk.
In August, a survey by School Bus Fleet magazine found many school bus companies across the country are also facing driver shortages. 22 percent of those surveyed called the shortage severe, five percent said they're desperate to find drivers.
Crook said while being a bus driver does have its challenges, it can also be rewarding.
"When they get off they're telling you 'bye, see you in the morning,' you know, that's a good day," she said.
And as the district looks to find new faces, there's one familiar face they can always count on.
"I just love my job. How do you do that? You got to enjoy what you're doing. And evidently I have met it," said Crook.
If you want to become a bus driver, call Sumter County Schools transportation department at (229) 931-8529.
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