Durham school bus drivers forced to work longer days, run multiple routes amid staffing shortage

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As Durham Public Schools works to fill more than 100 vacant school bus driver positions, the bus drivers who are working are having to pick up extra routes and work longer days.

Stephanie Daye has been a bus driver for Durham Public Schools for 30 years.

“My day starts at 5:30 in the morning,” Daye said. “I love it, I love being a bus driver. It’s a fun job because it’s like you’re a mom to the kids.”

But lately, she said it has become frustrating, as every day she must run at least three routes because the district is down more than 100 bus drivers. As CBS 17 has previously reported, on any given day there are 20 bus routes that don’t have a driver to run.

DPS officials said all their substitute bus drivers are driving buses every day and they are asking managers and coaches who have commercial driver’s licenses to fill in, as well.

“We are running multiple runs back-and-forth trying to get the kids home safely,” Daye said.

Daye said she’ll run one route and then have to go pick up kids at another school. She said this delays some routes by an hour and a half.

“It’s been really hard trying to get these kids home safely,” Daye said.

Daye said one thing the district needs to do is pay school bus drivers more money.

“Hopefully they’ll give us a raise so we can be competitive,” Daye said.

In an effort to recruit more drivers, the district held a job fair at the NCWorks Career Center at 1105 S. Briggs Ave. on Thursday morning.

DPS officials said more than 100 candidates registered for the job fair and they applied for different positions which included bus drivers, custodians, and nutrition workers.

Tom Westerberg applied for a bus driver position.

“I’m looking for something that’s a good full-time position,” Westerberg said. “My grandkids go to Durham Public Schools, they’ve been saying, ‘Grandpa, be a bus driver.'”

DPS officials at the job fair said they are having a hard time filling these bus driver vacancies because some people are going to drive for other companies, like Amazon, where the pay is higher.

At next Thursday’s DPS Board of Education meeting on Sept. 9, the superintendent will be bringing a proposal to the school board that would increase veteran bus driver salaries (drivers with 10 years of service or more).

If the board approves the proposal, salaries will range from $16.25 an hour from zero years of experience to $23.00 for individuals with more.

DPS officials said this proposal will make salaries more competitive with bus driver salaries at the Wake County Public School System at every level.

To apply for a school bus driver position with Durham Public Schools, go to the school district’s website.
You can also contact DPS’s senior executive director of Human Resource Services, Kimberly Hager, at 919-560-2000 ext. 21671.

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