Savannah Chatham Co. school board discusses impacts of bus driver shortage

Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 10:22 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2023 at 11:13 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham County students have been back in the classroom for about a month now and many of those students rely on the bus to get to school.

Transportation was a main topic at Wednesday night’s school board meeting as leaders are taking a closer look at the impacts of the bus driver shortage.

Leaders with Savannah-Chatham County Schools have set a goal this year - of having an on-time rate of 75% among pick-ups and drop-offs. So far this year, they say they haven’t been able to meet that.

“So when we look at some of the reasons or causes for us to be a little below where we should be at this point, it’s because of our driver shortages,” said Tammy Perkins, the lead director of SCCPSS Transportation.

Tammy Perkins, a lead director with the school district’s transportation department, says so far in 2023, only 52% of bus arrivals and drop-offs are on time - more than 20% lower than they want to be.

“As we see our number of students increasing, you’ll see as we look closer at our driver data - that our number of drivers continues to decrease,” said Perkins.

According to data from the school district, they have 193 active drivers this school year - that’s down from 214 last year.

Some school board members say they know one answer to the problem.

“We do a lot of things really well. So, my comment now, is more for us as a board, and less for the transportation team. We need to pay people more. That’s what it comes down to,” said Shawn Kachmar, District 4 school board member.

But some members say summers off outside of the school year complicate that some.

“We really have to be creative with being competitive with the pay, when you compare the amount of days other entities are actually working,” said Dr. Tonia Howard-Hall, District 8 school board member.

Perkins says the district is actively recruiting new drivers, and winning some previous drivers back by offering them the same pay they had when they left the district.

They’re also working to simplify bus routes - all in an effort to reach that 75% on-time goal.

The district also says they’re working to increase the number of eight hour working positions as opposed to the typical five hours a day many bus drivers work.

They’re hoping a more traditional work day may entice more drivers to join the district.