CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have been dealing with an ongoing bus driver shortage felt by other school districts statewide.
"It seems like every week it's something," Frank Esposito of Holly Springs said. "Either I'm picking my child up early, or dropping them off a little later with a missed bus. You got to be on your toes this year more than ever."
Esposito is echoed in Orange County where the school system has dealt with several uncovered routes, namely in February when multiple bus drivers were out due to COVID-19 protocols.
"We're back to a situation where maybe there's one, or two uncovered routes and that's after we use our office staff and substitute drivers to cover some of the routes that are uncovered at the start of the day," chief communications officer Andy Jenks said. "We're getting better, but we obviously still have more to do."
The school board recently increased the starting pay to $20/hr. which Jenks said is working in their recruitment efforts.
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"Right now it leads the region," Jenks said. "We have four drivers who have been hired. Two of whom already on the road."
The school board discussed more recommendations on Thursday evening, including combining bus routes and students on one bus.
"What if we allowed elementary and middle school students to ride some of the same buses, and what if we allowed middle and high school students to ride the same buses?" Jenks said. "Doesn't mean that applies to every student, everywhere, but we want to make sure we leave no stone unturned."
At the meeting, the school board decided to give the concept a try, saying for example, for elementary students can ride with middle school students, and that middle-schoolers could ride with high school students.
The board noted that it will "separate the school levels as well as bus monitors and monitors when possible."
The hope is to reduce the number of needed routes and potentially increase efficiency.
While Jenks is confident in the school system's ability to handle the situation, the vacancy hits North Carolina schools hard, according to NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly.
"They set the tone for how students arrive, and how they leave school," Walker Kelly said. "When we don't have enough bus drivers, safety assistants, and other non-certified staff, it really leaves our school at a deficit of trusted adults that our students can build positive relationships with."
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