WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – School systems are dealing with bus driver shortages and that’s having an impact on students and their families.
“My granddaughter she’s been going to school for two weeks now, and she’s been on the bus for two days out of the two weeks,” grandparent Roy Arnold said. Arnold’s grandchildren are in Washington County Schools.
Arnold said he works early and his wife is disabled, so it’s hard to transport the kids back and forth to school, especially on short notice.
“I got a text at work saying that her bus was not running that morning, and I got the text at 7:43 and her school starts at 7:45,” Arnold said. “Sometimes we don’t get a text, we get a call from her saying that her bus is not running.”
School officials said they currently have about 95 to 100 bus drivers, one for each route. Issues arise when people call out sick.
“I like to apologize when those hiccups happen in our bus service,” Washington County Department of Education Chief Operations Officer Dr. Jarrod Adams said. “We try really hard to make sure we’re consistent and reliable.”
Adams said they are actively searching for substitute drivers.
Johnson City Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett said they’re also hiring, and they’re down 11 drivers.
While they said they haven’t had too many issues so far, they have a backup plan in place.
“We’ve identified staff members at each of our schools who stay after school if a given route were to be canceled during the school year,” Dr. Barnett said. “They supervise and work with those students until the bus is able to make a route, come back through and do a second route.”
School systems said they’re continuing to work towards more competitive pay and incentives to bring more bus drivers on board.
“We’ll hire whatever bus drivers we can find,” Adams said. “The more the merrier.”