Guilford County Schools transportation could face new challenges amid bus driver shortage

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- New changes coming to Guilford County Schools could mean more challenges for the transportation system that is already stretched thin due to a bus driver shortage.

Transportation leaders have to figure how they are going to get students where they need to be with talk of new academies and offering transportation for people in JROTC programs next year.

Jeff Harris, the director of transportation at GCS, says his team is still in the early stages of creating a plan. Right now, they are looking at a few possibilities.

The school system may need to hire some new drivers and get more buses on the road. He said using the magnet shuttle program is an option too, that allows students to get picked up and dropped off at a hub and then get on another bus to go to school.

“We don't have a set method that we're going to do right now because we need to do more studying to see who the students are and where they are coming from,” Harris said. “If five students participate there is going to be a different solution than if 50 students decide to participate.”

Harris may not have the answers now about what to do with next year’s changes, but does have a plan on how to tackle the bus driver shortage.

“We are experiencing a pretty dramatic shortage of bus drivers,” Harris said. “About 50 buses out of 560 do not run every day so those are bus routes that they have to double up on or run on a later time.”

Harris said that GCS will now host an optional tutoring session for bus driver candidates so they have a better chance of passing the state’s school bus driver exam.

“We found out of a class of 20 individuals maybe five will pass the written test and come to work for us,” Harris said.

Candidates will watch videos and a teacher will give them test taking tips. Harris plans to do the tutoring session a week before applicants do a two and a half day training session and take the state test at the DMV.

"Once we start having more individuals pass the class that's going to help us take care of our bus driver shortages is our hopes," Harris said.

Harris plans to hold the first tutoring session at the transportation center next week before applicants do their training and take the state test at the end of the month.

He say’s the initiative is a new idea so there could be changes to it as they go along.