SCCPSS bus driver shortage persists as start of school year nears

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 4:29 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2021 at 4:40 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - We have new details about the bus driver shortage in Savannah-Chatham County schools.

Students head back to school in a week but the school system doesn’t have enough bus drivers to get all the students there. The district has a priority system for assigning seats.

District leaders say they can take the least-independent learners and also kids who go to the school zoned to where they live. That’s about 20,000 students.

Leaders say if they had the drivers, transportation would not be an issue when they leave the garage Wednesday to pick up students for the new year. But instead they are about 114 drivers short, which means decisions had to be made.

Masks will not only be required in schools, but also on the bus as they will be filled to capacity due to the driver shortage. Officials say they will be regularly cleaned for safety as well.

When it comes to hiring new drivers, HR leaders with the district say they have increased the pay for drivers to a base salary of $15.48 while the average salary is $20.63. The district also added supplements or bonus pay for attendance and recruiting efforts of drivers.

Right now, they have about 10 to 15 in the hiring process, but training could take up to eight weeks for some. That’s why their current priority of bussing will continue through the first semester.

“You know we’re constantly assess how many buses we have and what capacity they are. We are going to be very diligent the first 10 days in looking at ridership, who’s not riding, we can remove those if we can start condensing routes, condensing those who create free buses and add more bus drivers then we’re going to asses that probably starting you know the end of the first semester. We will start assessing if there is anything that we can add for priority four and five,” said Paul Abbott, Executive Director of Transportation SCCPSS.

When it comes to the concerns from current drivers about their payroll, officials at SCCPSS say they have created a task force to look into the system, but it’s not an overnight change.

Leaders did engage in a career fair Tuesday to find new drivers and encourage anyone to apply and help them serve local students.

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