‘It makes it very difficult:’ SCCPSS transportation department in need of 170 bus drivers

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 5:09 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The school bus driver shortage has gotten worse.

Nearly half of the positions are vacant as Savannah Chatham County public schools struggle to fill those positions.

Savannah Chatham public school’s transportation department is budgeted for about 350 bus drivers.

In July, the district told WTOC they had about needed about 80 more bus drivers.

Now, they need 170 bus drivers.

Because of the ongoing shortage partially resulting from the pandemic, the school system had to cut routes and create a priority list. Students in choice programs outside of their district don’t have the option of hopping on a school bus.

“Which is heart wrenching. They’re all our kids, but because of that significant shortage, it makes it very difficult.”

Head of the district’s transportation department Tammy Perkins says buses are delayed here and there because bus drivers are picking up extra routes.

“It has been taxing on some of our drivers for those who are pitching in and helping with those extra routes. We try to keep them encouraged while asking them to do more with fewer people on staff.”

So nearly three years into the pandemic, the situation is getting worse. What is the district doing to keep the drivers they do have?

“We implemented monetary expenses for our drivers throughout the year for attendance, for retention, for staying with us.”

A new strategy to recruit drivers is also underway.

“We’re going to be reaching out to parents who may or not may not know. You know, ‘The bus picks my child up on time and drop them off,’ But guess what, there is a need. So hopefully we can reach out and have some of the parents, folks in the community to come. We do what it takes to get the kids to school.”

Miller-Kaigler says they are starting an upskilling and reskilling program called LEAD where they train parents how to do jobs around the school district like driving buses.

Parents and anyone who applies to a bus driver position will be given free CDL training.