RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — In a Tuesday transportation update, Wake County Public Schools shed light on the challenges faced during the 2021-22 school year and what can be expected for bus rider families in the district as this school year is soon to start.
The update lists a need to eliminate 76 routes to match the driver shortage the school system is facing with a projected amount of 560 bus drivers and 55 permanent, full-time subs on staff. According to the school board, in the last year (as of August 3) 106 resignations have come in from drivers while new hires amounted to just 64 in the same time frame.
Of the total 76 route elimination goal, 52 of those have already been removed. Routes have also been stretched so that some students will arrive as close as five minutes before the first bell, rather than 15 minutes prior.
The school system said their number of drivers has taken a significant dive since 2014 when more than 900 available drivers were employed. This dive seen since 2014 was only exacerbated, or made worse, by the labor shortage brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the update said.
“We have increased bus driver pay significantly, including offering signing bonuses, and we continue to host frequent recruiting events, but progress in hiring more drivers remains slow,” WCPSS said in a statement.
On a better note, the school system has said there are enough drivers for the 584 planned routes for this school year, but operations may see impacts such as more buses at or near capacity.
More effects to bus riders may include:
- Longer travel times;
- More buses that have to make two separate runs in the morning and/or the afternoon;
- Some students will need to arrive as early as 40 minutes before the school day begins;
- In the afternoon, some students may need to wait at school for their bus to make its first run before it can return to collect riders for its second run. (Schools will be prepared to accommodate students who need to arrive early or stay late);
- Some buses may not be able to run at all on a given day if too many drivers are absent. Schools and parents will be notified as quickly as possible when that is the case.
For parents of WCPSS students, the district gave a few tips for what can be done to help, including:
- Make sure you review the bus route information for your student that will be shared with traditional calendar families later this week;
- Everyone is strongly encouraged to sign up for the Here Comes the Bus app, which allows you to track your student’s bus in real time. It helps to take the guesswork out of when the bus will arrive at your stop;
- Visit wcpss.net/herecomesthebus to learn more and download the app. It only takes a few minutes;
- You can also visit wcpss.net/busupdates and click on your child’s school. Any delays will be listed there;
- If you do not wish to use the bus service this year, please let us know at wcpss.net/declinebus.