Coaches help out during Guilford County Schools’ bus driver shortage; ‘We’re going to make sure we’re doing everything we can to get them in the building’

Piedmont Triad News

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) – Some Guilford County high school coaches are in the driver’s seat of yellow school buses for the time being.

It’s to help get students to and from school while bus drivers are out sick. 

“Kids want to be at school,” said Jesse Tripp, a teacher and coach at Grimsley High School. “The teachers and coaches want our students at school.” 

Some high school students will use city buses or shuttles to make it to class for at least the next two weeks.

District leaders were forced to get creative for school transportation after an uptick in COVID-19 callouts and the extreme bus driver shortage. 

“I drive the bus to all of our JV and varsity football games so it’s nothing new to me,” Tripp said. 

Coaches or staff members at Grimsley High School, Page High, Dudley High School, Smith High School, Andrews High School and High Point Central stepped up to run the temporary shuttle stops. 

Page High School teacher and coach Evan Fancourt said stops are in areas where a high concentration of students need a ride.  

“Familiarity with knowing who’s driving,” Fancourt said. “Just the recognition of the yellow school bus and not having to do something different.”

Tripp dropped off dozens of Grimsley High School students at a shuttle stop on West Market Street in Greensboro on Monday.

“It was packed,” said Anas Zaraf, a 10th grade Grimsley High student who rode the shuttle. “I knew COVID was a big deal but I didn’t think it was going to effect the bus systems or anything like that.” 

Zaraf told FOX8 the shuttle is more convenient than riding a Greensboro city bus, where his commute home would be longer due to a transfer at the Greensboro Depot.

“I was afraid my parents wouldn’t be able to drop me off because they both work in the morning,” Zaraf said. 

One thing Zaraf noticed was some his classmates that normally ride the bus didn’t make it to school.

“A lot of people were out, like a ridiculous amount. I don’t think people have a way to get here from the start like their parents weren’t comfortable letting them walk,” Zaraf said. “A lack of communication and social interaction like it doesn’t make the school feel the same.”

The shuttles are scheduled for the next two weeks but could be extended if bus drivers are still out sick.

“We would do it in a heartbeat just to get our kids here and particularly some of our students that are more vulnerable and need to be here and want to be here,” Fancourt said. “We’re going to make sure we’re doing everything we can to get them in the building.” 

Tripp hopes the COVID-19 Omicron surge will settle down by then. 

“Myself and the other coaches and teachers have things that they do before and after school whether that’s athletics or other prior engagements and families and things like that,” Tripp said. “We’ve gotten kind of used to making adjustments and pivoting and doing different things and making it work.” 

Shuttle bus drivers are required to have a commercial drivers license. 

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