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SCCPSS: Bus service not available to all students due to staffing shortage

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 1:59 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 5:40 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System says a bus driver shortage is causing the district to make changes to the transportation system.

With a critical shortage of drivers, the district says they must cut back on offering transportation to school this year. The school system is prioritizing who can take a bus to school and say at this time, they can’t handle everyone. It’s estimated that about 5,000 students will lose their bus seat this coming year.

The announcement comes a little more than a month out from the first day of school.

According to the district, roughly 300 drivers are needed to transport 25,000 students. Currently, the driver staffing level is 217. The school system states this means it cannot provide transportation services at the same levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Training for a driver takes about 4-6 weeks and is paid for by the district, but they have seen declining interest for the past five years.

“We’ve been monitoring our staffing numbers throughout the year or the past year, but as we got closer to the upcoming school year, we did realize that we we’re at a point where some decisions had to be made,” SCCPSS Transportation Lead Director Tammy Perkins said.

SY 21-22 PRIORITY LEVELS ESTABLISHED FOR TRANSPORTATION SERVICES

*Students have been preliminarily identified to receive transportation. Registration Required.

  • Priority 1: Identified students with IEP or 504 that requires Special Transportation Services, ESOL, and McKinney Vento (Homeless) students
  • Priority 2: Zoned Elementary School & K-8 Students
  • Priority 3: Zoned Middle School & High School Students

OTHER PRIORITY LEVELS: Transportation Service Not Currently Available

*SCCPSS is not able to provide transportation at this time.

  • Priority 4: Choice Elementary School & K8 Students
  • Priority 5: Choice Middle School & High School Students and Alternative Education Students

Parents who have students in the defined priority levels still need to register for services.

A lot of parents on social media are frustrated. One says she felt blindsided. Officials say they made the announcement now to allow families time to adjust.

Some families with children in choice programs are frustrated and unsure of what they will do.

“It’s not going to be feasible for me to get three children to three different schools on the other side of Savannah,” SCCPSS mother of three, Jacqueline Reaves said.

Reaves commutes an hour to work and now has a month to figure out how her kids will get to school.

“It’s very frustrating because at the end of the day; it’s affecting my students. It’s affecting my students, last year to virtual was a struggle for them and it just sounds like that this upcoming school year is going to continue to be a struggle for them and that’s just what is unfortunate,” Reaves said.

School district leaders say the bus driver shortage is affecting several other school districts and industries, but some parents feel like school leaders had time to plan. The district will send out registration to families in groups 1,2, and 3 by July 9, so they can start making routes for the upcoming school year.

“The plan that has been introduced today will be in effect at least through our first semester. We will revisit it and determine what our capacity levels are like at that time,” Perkins said.

The district says routes will stay in place for the first half of the school year. The district could make modifications to the routes if there are any staffing level changes at the start of semester two in January 2022.

COVID-19 protocols will be in place on buses. Masks will be required, according to the school system. For more information on the staffing shortage and bus priority program from the school district, please click here.

Anyone who is interested in joining the SCCPSS Transportation team can apply here.

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