Special to Iredell Free News
Iredell-Statesville Schools continues to struggle with a bus driver shortage.
“Currently, we have 25 bus routes that are not covered by a driver, with a lot of people driving extra to help cover bus routes,” I-SS Director of Transportation Kim Fox explained. “We’ve worked very hard to create community stops, reduce routes, and run our busses as efficiently as possible. We’ve increased pay and created incentives for I-SS employees to fill in when needed. The fact of the matter is that we have a shortage of employees to drive school buses.”
The district serves over 20,500 students, including approximately 10,000 students who ride a bus on average every day. I-SS has 196 buses and currently employs 159 bus drivers.
Across I-SS, school buses cover about 12,500 miles a day. Most buses cover multiple routes for elementary, middle, and high schools.
Canceled bus routes and changes to routes have caused hardship for parents across Iredell County.
“We have many, many families where both parents work. A canceled bus route can be a true hardship for many of our stakeholders,” Fox said. “We are fielding scores of phone calls from frustrated parents, and we certainly understand the issue.”
I-SS Superintendent Jeff James urges parents to be patient and flexible.
“Parents need to make sure they have a Plan B in place for their child’s transportation. I encourage parents to speak with family, friends, and neighbors about ways they might support each other should a bus route get canceled.
“Unfortunately, we are having daily issues with covering routes. We already have a shortage, and now we also have drivers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are having to call in sick for work at the last minute. It’s a perfect storm. We appreciate any support and grace that our families can provide,” he added.
In North Carolina, obtaining a CDL to drive a school bus requires completing an online class and subsequent driving time with an instructor. I-SS is paying bus drivers between $17.62 and $22.42 per hour.
If you or someone you know is interested in driving a school bus, please contact the I-SS Transportation department at 704-872-5321 or email Kim Fox at email@example.com.