Johnston County Schools Experiencing Shortage Of Bus Drivers

Survey Indicates 380 To 470 Drivers Are Needed 
Draft Budget Includes Funds For 53 New Full-Time Drivers 

Johnston County Public Schools has 850 employees who drive 1,218 school bus routes each day.  Many of those employees are teacher assistants (TA’s). TA’s are required to drive school buses in the mornings and afternoons in addition to their duties in the classroom.  Of the 850 employees, only 75 are full-time drivers.

School leaders believe they are missing out on hiring many qualified teacher assistants because they don’t want to drive a bus.  A March 2019 survey of current bus drivers indicated only 328 staff members wanted to continue to drive.

This month, Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow released his draft 2019-2020 fiscal year budget that include funding to hire 53 additional full-time bus drivers. But that’s only a start, Dr. Renfrow said.

Chief of Staff Dolores Gill said up to 470 bus drivers will be needed if classified employees no longer drive buses.

Dr. Renfrow said while TA’s are driving a bus they’re not in the classroom where they are needed.  However, school leaders say they want to work with employees who still want to drive a bus before and after school, including teacher assistants and custodians.  In addition to the 53 full-time bus driving positions, more money is included in the proposed budget to pay for extended hours for custodians who want to drive buses.

“The survey was a beginning step to research any and all possibilities, while ensuring the students are safely and efficiently transported,” Gill said in an email to JoCoReport. “All areas of the district need more driver-only persons so that more instructional, custodial, and school nutrition staff can stay working in the schools.”

The starting salary of a bus driver is $13.22 per hour.  Drivers must pass a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) written exam and driving test, and deemed fit to be eligible for a CDL. They must maintain a current license.

“Johnston County Public Schools is always looking for more drivers, but the purpose of the 470 was to show how short the district would be if classified employees did not drive a bus and we had bus driver-only folks do this,” Gill said.

The survey indicated 67 drivers who have dual-roles would prefer being only a bus driver.

“If we used the 328 who want to drive even though they have other duties at the school, plus the 75 full-time drivers we have, plus 67 from the survey who said they wouldn’t mind being a driver only,” Mrs. Grill said, “The end number of drivers needed would be 380. This would be if we used only those who do want to drive. We would have to cover 380 more buses.”

School officials hope the 53 new full-time bus drivers in the draft budget is just the start of many more drivers that can be hired. Additional full-time bus driving positions will likely be requested in the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget.