SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) is still facing a bus driver shortage due to the pandemic, leaving many students without access to public transportation this school year.
SCCPSS says it needs around 300 bus drivers to transport 25,000 students that rely on transportation each year. The district says it has a task force working to resolve the issue. It has more than 20 candidates in various stages of the hiring process for the upcoming school year.
“We are vigorously recruiting for bus drivers, monitors, and custodians. Will it happen overnight? Probably not,” SCCPSS Deputy Superintendent, Vanessa Miller-Kaigler said.
“But we are working with our drivers, our monitors, and the highest level of district staff to address that concern,” she added.
School officials said with the current number of drivers, the school system is forced to prioritize ridership and consolidate routes.
“As we recruit more drivers, as we see who’s riding the bus, we can see what the ridership looks like. We can condense some routes, free up some buses,” SCCPSS Transportation Department Director Paul Abbott said.
“We’ll get with the leadership board and look at the priority list,” he added. “We already have a priority list, but in each priority list, there are a number of schools. So we are going to have to work on what is a priority once we get enough buses to add a school or a program.”
Abbott says routes will be reviewed regularly as driver capacity levels increase. Routes will stay in place for the first semester and will be modified at the start of the second semester in January.
He also warns parents to leave a little extra time in the morning. They are expecting more traffic around schools because of the increase in motorists and pedestrians.
Local drivers tell WSAV News 3 they have requested better pay and retirement benefits.
“Some of our veteran drivers earn as much as $25 an hour. So we’re very appreciative of our drivers, we understand the position of our drivers, and we respect what our drivers do in this district.”
Parents with students who have been identified as a priority for transportation will be required to register for services.