“Like every other system we’re struggling with drivers,” Long County School Superintendent David Edwards said during a regular school board meeting Monday.
The Long County Board of Education and school system administrators discussed possible solutions to a shortage of bus drivers. Some parents have complained about their children arriving late to school due to issues with the system being unable to retain bus drivers.
The system needs 40 drivers but currently has 37, according to Heath Crane, student service director. Crane said the system has had a 30 percent turn-over in drivers during the past two years.
School Board Vice Chair Florence Baggs asked if the system was doing anything extra to recruit drivers. Edwards said they have raised the wage by $1 an hour, and can initiate some incentives next month like a $100 bonus to drivers who don’t miss a route and are on time.
“We’re hiring drivers they’re just not staying,” he said.
School Board Member Marcus DeLoach commented that the struggle to retain school bus drivers is a statewide problem. DeLoach added that it’s hard for families to make ends meet on a bus driver’s salary alone.
Administrators told the school board there are 40 routes. One option, Edwards said, would be to change school start times. Another intermediate option he proposed would be to schedule four second-run buses starting in April. There could be four early buses for the high school, and four full-time bus drivers, he said. The superintendent said if this solution appears amenable, than the system could try six second runs next school year.
Edwards said the system could also pull drivers from other schools to ensure high school students arrive on time during mandatory testing periods for end of grade and end of course tests.
“If we have double morning bus runs, we will prioritize the schools who are testing,” the superintendent said. “For example, if we need a driver for a three schools route during Georgia Milestone testing, we will pull a high school driver and the second run would be a high school route. This would also be true if the high school has a driver out during testing. We would pull a driver from other three schools. Hopefully, we will not need to do so. But, we will be prepared if needed.”
School board attorney Jeff Arnold was on hand early in the meeting to address a senior citizen’s query. A Long County disabled senior, who has never had children, asked the board why he must pay school taxes.
Arnold replied that even citizens who do not have children attending schools in the school district are required by the Georgia Constitution to pay ad valorem taxes to support the school system. He also pointed out specific articles in the state constitution dealing with homestead exemptions, such as for persons age 65 and older with annual incomes not exceeding $30,000, and for disabled veterans.