Bryan County Board of Education members were told at their monthly meeting Thursday that the shortage of school bus drivers had reached a critical point.
“We need 10 drivers. We need at least six in south Bryan,” Superintendent Paul Brooksher told the board members. “We need to think outside the box. The transportation department is working hard to fill those positions.
“We are looking for morning and afternoon drivers,” he added.
Brooksher said that the shortage had reached the point that the director of transportation, his assistant, bus mechanics and at least one school principal are routinely driving school bus routes.
Transportation Director Allen Cox said shortages of bus drivers are not unique to Bryan County.
“Other school districts are having the same problems,” Cox said. “Being a school bus driver is a unique and challenging job.”
He said becoming a school bus driver requires a month of specialized training, a background check and the ability to handle 50 or more students on the bus. Cox said he knew of one district that was offering bus drivers a starting salary of $30 per hour and still was having problems attracting new drivers.
The Bryan County School System currently has 60 bus drivers, according to Cox. He said bus drivers work five to six hours daily and are paid $14.30 per hour. The school board recently started an incentive program that allows bus drivers a chance to receive an extra $100 per month above their normal pay.
“If a driver has perfect attendance in their morning and afternoon routes for a month, they get an extra $100,” Cox said. “It's a chance to make an extra $1,000 per year for perfect attendance over a 10-month period.”
Cox said the school system recently held a job fair at Goodwill Industries and attracted only five applicants. Future job fairs are scheduled for Armstrong State University and Savannah Tech.
The shortage of drivers has forced the school system to go to a three-tier bus system in south Bryan County.
The first pick-up is Richmond Hill High and McAllister Elementary schools, followed by the elementary schools in Richmond Hill and finally Richmond Hill Middle, he said.
“With the shortage of drivers, we had to go to a tier system,” Cox said. “We could not have picked all the students in south Bryan at the same time.”
Anyone interested in getting information about becoming a school bus driver can stop by Cox’s office on Francis Meeks Drive in Richmond Hill, or call his office at 459-5170, the school board office at 851-4000 or apply online at www.bryan.k12.ga.us.
In addition to addressing the bus driver shortage, the board also approved a new bullying policy to add cyber bullying to a list of prohibited activities.