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School bus driver shortage

By Eddie West

Staff Writer

The need for additional school bus drivers.

What some school officials viewed for years as a problem, just may have reached a point of crisis. 

“I feel like we’re at a crisis. If we’ve got to spend money then we need to spend money. We need to be more aggressive,” says District 3 school board member Marty McCaleb, who supports a raise in pay for drivers and noted to fellow board members a parent had contacted him and said they have no other means of transportation for their children to school. 

The school board member’s comments on the long-standing issue just may have swayed other board members concerns about the situation.  

For years, a shortage of school bus drivers has routinely surfaced at school board meetings; however, the issue has never been resolved or discussed as extensively as occurred at this month’s board meeting.

School officials are exploring options in an effort to provide some type of relief or support to the county’s school bus drivers as well as the school system’s transportation department. In doing so, school officials hope to attract additional drivers.

Instead of simply discussing the problem, school board members have finally reached the point of exploring options to address the increasing problem and, at least at this point, appear to be looking at taking some type of action.

School board members have requested the Director of Schools Barry Smith to take a look at what other school systems are paying their drivers and the possibility of staggered starting times for schools.

The director is to report back to the school board at next month’s meeting.

Discussion surfaces at September meeting:

At this month’s meeting, the topic was listed as “possible bus route option”, which sparked an extensive debate among school board members.

School board Chairman Ricky Shoulders made it clear the school board has not eliminated any school bus routes because of the driver shortage which was verified by Director of Schools Barry Smith.

At this point, cutting school bus routes doesn’t merit the support of the school board.

Director Smith told board members it could come to a point where there would be drop off points on certain routes.

“We may have to look at condensing routes based on the type (narrowness)of road,” the director explained. This would create drop-off points.

However, this no longer seems to be an option as District 8 school board member and chairman Scotty Lewis, as well as District 7 school board member Randy Glover both expressed opposition to drop-off locations because of safety issues.

The two argued students would be left unattended at drop off locations, meaning anyone could pick them up.

With sex trafficking a problem as well as other safety issues, such as students being left alone is not an option.

No school board member spoke in support of drop off locations.


1 Comment

  1. Glen Kirby on October 7, 2022 at 7:58 pm

    I drove for Smith county schools in 2005 to 2008 time frame.
    The big elephant in the room is that bus drivers are solely responsible for the safely and timely arrivals of students. Not all but many will not adhere to safety requirements of properly riding a bus thus, they act out noisily, put hands and arms out windows, forever changing to a different seat while bus is moving etc…1 1/2 hours is not enough time to get some of these routes completed.
    I have always believed bus riding should be part of ‘graded’ curriculum with both merits and demerits respectively on all children riding our buses.
    If board members had to first drive a bus for a term we wouldn’t have any trouble with deciding where and how to spend the county’s taxes. I can be contacted via my email address.
    Glen V Kirby

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