GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — There’s a bigger challenge this year when it comes to finding bus drivers across metro Atlanta.
Channel 2 Action News at 5 p.m. showed you how Clayton County Schools came up with an aggressive plan to tackle the shortage.
Georgia’s largest school district is seeing success in recruiting and keeping bus drivers. Channel 2′s Jorge Estevez went to Gwinnett County Schools to learn how the district is finding a way to keep the majority of its drivers.
“It’s changed dramatically,” said Hunter Blackburn, the school district’s director of transportation. “Our drivers play a big role in emotionally connecting with the kids, hearing about the day. It’s more than just driving.”
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Gwinnett County implements active recruitment. They have a dedicated transportation team and hold two to three virtual job fairs a week.
The department even sends recruitment flyers to homes when they deliver meals to students on at-home school days.
“We found that the best way to get folks is to go out to where the people are and talk about why driving is a great job,” Blackburn told Estevez.
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Estevez decided to give bus driving a try with help from GCPS safety and training manager Joyce Kennedy.
“Alberto Rodriguez is going to be your driver.”
“I am so sorry for what is about to happen on your bus today,” Estevez replied with a smile.
First, Rodriguez walked Estevez through the bus mechanics and safety checks.
“So I’ve waved them because I’ve done all the checks. I count them in my blind spot then I count one kid, two kids, three kids,” Estevez asks.
Next challenge: Stopping at the right spot using mirrors and parking.
“Now, I am going to drive to the other dotted and spotted lines.”
After he successful parks the bus, Estevez then learns how to drive it in reverse. And he was successful.
“This is perfect. You cannot get better than that,” Rodriguez said.
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When it comes to training, Kennedy says it’s an important thing to nail down. But it’s another thing remains their biggest challenge.
“It’s really the student management piece,” Blackburn said. “If you’re able to be there for your students to provide for your students emotionally, you love being a driver.”
That is why classes on nurturing that emotional connection is part of Gwinnett’s 120 hour training session.
“it is all about keeping the children safe and we if we can keep our children safe that is the end goal,” Kennedy said.
Right now, Gwinnett County Public Schools district is 1,648 bus drivers strong. The number is 57 drivers above their staffing goal, but they are always looking to train and hire more passionate and qualified people.
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