WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Some Washington County, Tennessee students have not had bus transportation since school went back in session on August 2.
On Monday, nine routes were not covered, leaving around 200 of the total 8200 students in the school district without bus transportation.
Those nine routes cover three schools: David Crockett High School, Lamar Elementary School and Grandview Elementary School.
Grandview Elementary parent, Jack Smith, said he often receives a text alert telling him that his kids’ bus route won’t be covered.
“They haven’t had a bus driver all year,” said Smith. “Last year, it was kind of spotty. They’d give us a call saying we’d have to come pick our kids up or take them to school because they didn’t have a driver for the route.”
Smith says he has to wait in long lines to pick up his kids at a school that’s not too far away from his home.
“I would expect with all of the kids they’ve got going to the school and all of the buses they have out there, that they’d have enough room on one of the buses to come scoop the kids up that are real close like mine are to the school, but no, I guess they don’t have enough room on any of the buses for that,” said Smith.
Grandparent of a Lamar School student, Caroleyn Fender, said she sits in the car pick-up line.
She’s got two younger children in the car, waiting to pick up four more. Fender says they didn’t have a bus driver last year.
“It’s rough on parents,” said Fender. “I know it’s rough on me.”
Washington County Schools told News Channel 11 they are actively hiring more bus drivers.
“It’s hard to find good, quality people that want to drive a school bus,” said Chief Operating Officer for the school district, Jarrod Adams. “We have very competitive pay for our school bus drivers, but we also have very high expectations for our bus driver candidates. They have to pass a background check. They have to pass a drug screen. And we’re pretty stringent on who we allow behind the wheel of a school bus.”
Adams says most bus routes are canceled due to sickness, and they try to get them covered as soon as possible.
“Our school bus drivers are some of our best people in our system, working with our students,” said Adams. “First person they see in the morning, last person they see in the afternoon that’s related to the school is our bus driver. So, they really set the tone and we work hard to make sure that we have great people behind the wheel.”
Adams says 94 buses run every day and 87 of those drivers are full-time.
“When you’re over 90 percent of your buses running, I think that’s pretty good,” said Adams. “I know it’s frustrating for some of the people that they don’t have that bus transportation, but overall, I think we’re doing a decent job at making sure our buses are on the road.”
He says the school district is thinking about offering some hiring incentives, like a $2,500 signing bonus and a $250 referral fee. These would come after several months of working, according to Adams.
You can apply to be a bus driver for Washington County Schools by calling (423)-753-1172.