Davidson County school employees required to learn to drive bus

DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. – The Davidson County Board of Education is requiring all school-based staff to learn and get their license to drive a bus.

The requirement is an effort to avoid a bus driver shortage. The revision refers to Davidson County School Board Policy 4.3, which is Qualifications of Personnel.

School system representatives said in an email statement, “It was adopted February 5, 2001 and has been revised three times. The latest revision was approved to clarify the policy and make it fair and equitable for all school based employees.”

Superintendent Dr. Emily Lipe said that school-based employees exclude front-desk staff and teachers that work one-on-one with exceptional children. To require them to drive a school bus would take time away from their primary position.

Lipe emphasized in a phone interview that this is just for emergencies in the event that a substitute driver cannot be reached.

School-based employees, such as custodians, teacher assistants and cafeteria workers, sign an agreement when hired that states they must get their CDL license within four months.

However, the previous policy wording also has discretion in the enforcement to the principal.

Lipe said no staff members have been terminated since the policy revision and they plan to work with employees who still do not have their CDL license.

“All classified employees were required through our human resources department to sign stating that they understand meeting the qualifications to drive a bus was a part of their employment  but it was again based on the school at the need at the time,” Lipe said.

Lipe said this policy revision makes sure that if a new principal enters a school, all the employees will be equipped to fulfill the duty if necessary.

“While the revision is effective immediately, it won’t happen overnight,” Lipe said.

She is currently working with the transportation director to lay out a training plan for how soon the training and testing can occur.

“This is going to take years for us to make sure that we have all classified staff that are impacted by this policy and the revision to obtain their bus license,” Lipe said. “Again this is not a new policy but we are at this time having to make it apart of the policy that removes principal discretion.”

Currently there are 14 openings for bus driver positions. Wednesday morning the district used 24 substitute drivers.

Lipe said that by making sure every school has an equal number of substitute drivers is proactive to prevent a further shortage.

“In January of 2018 the state is going to now require all school bus drivers to obtain their DOT medical card which means they’re going to have to successfully pass the DOT physical. So our school board is looking at this as a proactive approach to answer the call that is required by this new state law,” Lipe said.

Representatives with Lexington City Schools does not have a similar policy.

Rockingham County Schools has a similar policy for their classified employees.