CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County School Board made a big move on Tuesday night in hopes of alleviating the ongoing bus driver shortage.
Many families are in a tough spot driving children to school when the bus doesn't show up. That's why the school board voted Tuesday evening to give school-bus drivers and related staffers a bonus if they go to work every day.
The attendance bonus is the next step in a long list of efforts to recruit and retain drivers, safety assistants, and mechanics.
The shortage affects families, the transportation director said Tuesday night. When a bus driver is out for the day, there's a risk of 120 students not making it to school that day.
Demetria Harvey, a safety assistant, is looking forward to the attendance bonus she's now eligible for.
"It's going to help," Harvey said.
Harvey showed up at the school board meeting to make sure the proposal passed.
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Harvey said the vote was pivotal as this was the first time that safety assistants have been eligible for an attendance bonus.
The current attendance bonus was only available for bus drivers and team leaders.
Now, all bus drivers, team leaders, mechanics, and safety assistants could earn up to $200 a month for perfect attendance.
The bonus is offered during the 10-month school year So simply coming to work every day could net an eligible worker an extra $2,000.
Harvey said the incentive is needed.
"I have been in Lillington, North Carolina, to take a child home," she said. "When we have people out, we have to ride two and three routes, the ones that's there. So we hoping that it will help bring in work because they will stay and come to work so they could get attendance bonus."
And like bus drivers, safety assistants' roles are also critical making sure they care for the district's vulnerable students, such as riders with special needs.
"We are the first ones that the students actually see. And we're the last ones that students actually see. So we have to get the students and make sure that they are there," Harvey said.
The perfect attendance bonus is one of the steps the district is making to help retain and recruit drivers as the district deals with double-digit vacancy rates, including 35% for safety assistants, 33% for bus drivers, and 29% for mechanics.
This has affected operations and the district has admitted this has forced students to arrive at school and get home late.
The district is already paying for a driver's commercial license and the physical that is required to get that license. The bonus would be payable on a monthly basis, starting with the next payroll period, which runs from March 27 through April 30.