DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Tuesday, some students who attend Durham Public Schools had to wait longer at the bus stop for their ride, as the district said more than half a dozen bus drivers were absent.
DPS officials said eight bus drivers called out sick on Tuesday morning, and some bus drivers had to run more than one route.
As a result, some students were dropped off at school later or dropped off at home later.
This comes as Durham Public Schools is already facing a significant shortage of bus drivers and the district has said some students have had to wait an hour or longer for the bus.
“We have 20 bus routes that are vacant, even after we bring on every substitute driver that we have,” said Chip Sudderth, spokesman for Durham Public Schools. “We can’t man every route, so drivers have to do double duty, sometimes even triple duty, and run a different route after they run their own route.”
Since they had eight bus drivers absent on Tuesday, more bus drivers were required to pick up another route and this led to even more delays for parents and students.
Joshua Frye waits at the school bus stop at McDougald Terrace every day for his nephew and nieces.
He said that since school has started, he has noticed some delays.
“I mean they come a little late sometimes, and in the mornings, they come a little early,” Frye said.
He said his nephew is having to catch the bus earlier than he used to.
“I’ve got a nephew that catches the bus at around six in the morning,” Frye said.
Sudderth didn’t have an exact number of bus driver vacancies that the district is experiencing, but he said they could use well over 100 more.
“I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say we have 100 or more vacancies that we could fully take advantage of,” Sudderth said. “That would help us make sure that all of our routes are covered and that we have substitutes.”
Sudderth said they lost some of their bus drivers who left during the height of the pandemic and who never returned.
To recruit more drivers, he said they are looking at increasing bus driver pay.
He said right now everyone in the transportation department who has a Commercial Driver’s License is driving a bus route.
He also said they are asking some coaches in the district if they would be willing to step in and help drive some of the bus routes.
“We are doing everything we can to bring bus drivers in through the door,” Sudderth said.
On Thursday, DPS will be holding a job fair from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 1105 S Briggs Avenue. They will be looking to hire bus drivers, bus monitors, and custodians.
For more information or to pre-register – click here.