VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Across Georgia, many school systems are dealing with bus driver shortages.
Valdosta City Schools (VCS) has been dealing with the same issue, which resulted in a school system wide early dismissal a few weeks back.
“If we have not dismissed early, then that would have put some of our students getting home at 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock, as opposed to cleaning our campuses at about 4:20," said Transportation Director Rick Thomas.
VCS officials said there was an abundance of extracurricular events in one day, so much so that it resulted in students getting out early to accommodate the lack of bus drivers.
“We still got the children home, our regular ed students. We were able to accommodate them. Athletic events, we were still able to accommodate that. So, we were still able to accommodate all the needs," said Thomas.
Officials said there were events for band, debate, football and basketball.
“All those are vital parts of the high school education experience, not just high school, but education experience itself," said Thomas.
Thomas said that this issue is a part of a larger problem, a shortage of bus drivers.
“Student misbehavior and salary I think are the two biggest contributing factors to the lack of bus drivers in the state," said Thomas.
Thomas said the pay is one of the biggest factors.
“Just for driving in the morning from 6 to 8:30, in the afternoon from 2 to 4:30, they’ll typically make 11 or 12,000 a year," said Thomas.
Thomas also said that the lengthy training and various certification classes may contribute to the problem.
“If they serve as a monitor during that training, we allow them to serve as monitor on the bus. The bus route that they’ll be assigned to, that is paid, if they serve as a monitor. The training itself is not paid training," said Thomas.
There are 11 open bus routes, all being covered by a core group of drivers.
“We have divided up 11 open routes among the drivers and they’ll cover those routes. So, they may not be driving two full routes but they’re driving their route, maybe half of another one," said Thomas.
Thomas said they are not willing to just hire anyone because they want people of quality. He said he believes the state needs to offer more money for more monitors and salaries to attract more drivers.