FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County is struggling with one of the worst school bus driver shortages in years, and officials are trying to lure more people into the driver’s seat. The school system has 62 open positions for a job that has boosted pay twice in the past two years.
“I’ve been in education for two decades, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it for bus driver shortages,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, a spokesperson for Forsyth County Schools.
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The district now pays $18.92 an hour, up more than $2 from two years ago. But it still faces roadblocks in hiring all the drivers it needs. Ever since the pandemic, Caracciolo said, the school system has struggled to fill all of its driver positions.
“We hear from our drivers that are leaving that they’re leaving for a variety of reasons, just like other businesses that are losing employees because of Covid,” she said. “They’re reevaluating their life.”
She said drivers have stepped up to take on multiple routes to ensure students get to school and home on time. “We’ve been down as far as 80 bus drivers at some times, so that really puts a lot of pressure on our current bus drivers, because we still have to get the kids to school,” she said.
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Terry Andrel has driven a bus in Forsyth County for nearly a decade.
“If you love kids and love being around them and want to make an impression on a child for the better, it’s really an awesome job,” she said.
She is encouraging people to give the job a shot.
“If you want to make an impact on children’s lives for the good, to me that’s the only reason you need,” she said. “And the pay is good, too.”
The job has part-time hours but full-time benefits. A commercial driver’s license is required, and the school district will pay for training. School officials point out another benefit: all the buses have air conditioning.
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“That was something we heard from our bus drivers,” Caracciolo said. “It was not only uncomfortable for them driving, but also uncomfortable for the students.”
The district has advertised the need for drivers on social media, billboards, the radio and with mailers. School leaders hope drivers like Andrel will inspire potential drivers.
“It’s a great job, that’s all I can say.”
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