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Limestone County in need of more school bus drivers

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - School leaders want to put you behind the wheel. Limestone County is in dire need of some willing men and women to drive the bus.

The school district currently has seven full-time openings for drivers. There are almost 11,000 kids who go to Limestone County schools. Over 4,000 of them ride the bus.

Superintendent Tom Sisk is looking for ways to encourage people to apply

Some eager youngsters from Johnson Elementary are hopping on the school bus at the end of the day.

"We cover 9,000 miles a day, on 137 bus routes," Sisk said.

On this afternoon, six buses are running to take kids home from Johnson school. Transportation director Rusty Bates is even driving one.

"We have aides we've converted over to drivers," Bates said.

"We've got mechanics that are driving every day. Every staff member with a license is being pulled into task," Sisk said.

While there's a need, Sisk won't yet call it a crisis.

"This year, we have I think seven vacancies we can't fill," Sisk said.

"Recruitment is about our only source of options to remedy it," Bates said.

The shortage of school bus drivers is not unique to Limestone County. School districts all over Alabama are hurting for drivers. So, what can they do about it? School leaders had a work session this week in which they proposed sweetening the deal. That includes a $20 a day raise to drivers, as well as a $5 an hour raise if you take the kids on a field trip.

"We're recruiting folks like single moms, retirees, business owners, people who want benefits but don't necessarily want to work eight hours," Sisk said.

Right now, Sisk says the shortage means some kids are getting home about an hour late.

"Be patient with us," Sisk said. "Sometimes, parents get upset with us that we're having to run a second route. And it's not our first choice. If we had someone who could do it, they'd be doing it."

Sisk says the seven driver positions are included in the 2019 budget. He doesn't expect to have to ask the school board for more money.

If you want to find out more about how to become a driver, the school district is hosting an informational session on Monday the 14th at the central office in Athens at 6:00 p.m.

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