Putnam County’s need for more school bus driver’s remains an issue for the school system.
Transportation Supervisor Kim Bradford said the district shortage has been affecting each school since the middle of last year.
“We are nine routes down,” Bradford said. “We have been able to reroute routes. They are a lot longer than they were. Even doing that, we have two routes that we do not have a driver that will be subs.”
Bradford said even with two in training, the school system needs 11 more drivers. Bradford said having the additional manpower would help alleviate bus over crowding and shorten routes.
“You have to keep in mind one child can not ride a bus longer than an hour and thirty minutes,” Bradford said. “For example, we pick up Cane Creek at 3:00 o’clock. There can not be a child on the Cane Creek bus past 4:30. Now if we go to the second school, and we don’t pick-up until 3:30, we have until 5:00 o’clock. So, the route time has increased for a lot of our drivers, not so much the ride time for students, but they still may be getting home later for the fact that once our bus fills to capacity, we have to leave that school and drop those kids off before we can put anyone else on the bus.”
Bradford said drivers are trained from the ground up. Bradford said a person only has to pass a drug and background test to get started. Bradford said the school system can get someone qualified to drive in just six weeks.
“We will teach you how to drive, we will help you get your CDL learner’s permit, we actually will test you out here to get your license, so you can drive a bus,” Bradford said. “It takes time to go through the process and that depends a lot on the person.”
Ron Chaffin is a current school bus driver that will be a part of the fleet this year. Chaffin said the position offers flexible hours while doing a job that matters.
“It is one of the most rewarding things that you can do,” Chaffin said. “A child that gets on the bus in the morning, you may be the first face that they see and talk to. In the afternoon, you may be the last person they see. You can be mentor to a child and really make life better for them.”
Bradford said one can apply to be a bus driver through the Putnam County School System Website.