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Piedmont Triad school districts facing bus driver shortages

School is right around the corner, but your child may not have a school bus driver. Districts across the Piedmont Trad are looking to hire dozens of new drivers before school starts later this month.

FOX8 talked to school districts in our area and searched for openings on their websites.

Guilford County Schools is looking to hire about 40 new bus drivers this month. In Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, 24 spots are open. The Randolph County School System's website shows it's also 24 drivers short. The Alamance-Burlington School System's website show 28 open positions.

Altogether, there are more than 100 school buses in these four counties with no drivers and it can have a big impact on students.

If your child rides a bus to or from school, chances are you've dealt with last-minute changes in a bus driver, their route, or their drop-off and pick-up times.

District officials say all those problems stem from not having enough full-time, part-time and substitute bus drivers.

Jeff Harris has driven a school bus for 26 years. Now, as the head of Guilford County Schools' Department of Transportation, he's facing a bus driver shortage in the district.

"It's actually become a national problem," he said.

GCS has about 560 buses in its fleet, but last year, 50 of them stayed parked all school year because there weren't enough drivers to operate them.

When that happens, Harris says the students face the negative consequences.

"There are more students on the buses. The routes may be longer," he said.

Harris says in bad cases, students even wind up late to school and he says that's unacceptable.

Districts like GCS are struggling to hire and keep drivers on staff.

"So a lot of them get in and go, 'Oh, no, no, too much responsibility,'" Shelby Moore said.

Moore has stuck around for 21 years.

"When I first started, I didn't have any intention of still being here, but once I started driving, I don't want to be anywhere else," she said.

But she understands why other drivers choose to back out.

"That affect drivers real bad, because they have to deal with a lot of stress," Moore said.

Even if the district can't retain enough drivers, the kids still need to get to school. That means more kids wind up on already crowded buses and more students for the driver to keep track of.

"The responsibility extends far outside the bus," Harris said. "Not only do they have to maintain order inside the bus, they have to make sure they know everything going on around them."

Harris says district employees regularly step in to drive buses when a substitute isn't available. But he says the district needs a permanent solution.

He's calling on anyone who wants to help out to step up.

"Many of us who are still with the school district now, started out driving while we were in college," Harris said. "Folks that have retired, folks that are just looking for something to do. It's very rewarding."

All of the school districts FOX8 talked to have full and part-time positions available. The pay varies between districts, but it ranges from about $11 - $15 per hour for a starting, full-time bus driver.