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Districts scramble to address school bus driver shortages amid pandemic

Officials say drivers have been taking on multiple routes to compensate for the shortage.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Schools throughout the Midlands are scrambling to fill bus vacancies amid the pandemic. 

As more students opt for in-person learning, these districts are having a harder time accommodating them. 

Security manager Dennis Jones said many bus drivers left to be caretakers for their families. Others left to seek out different opportunities. “Some drivers tend to get other jobs. I mean the trucking industry during COVID, it basically skyrocketed with so much demand for truck drivers,” said Jones.

Richland One is currently seeking 35 drivers.

“We’re gonna do what we have to do to get them babies at school and at home,” said Richland One driver Adelle Yarborough.

“I take my hats off to my supervisor, my operations officer at Lower Richland and North Main, they do coverage,” said Jones.

RELATED: Health experts warn COVID-19 cases in schools could continue to spike

Meanwhile, Lexington One is also hiring over thirty drivers. 

Kershaw County School District says it is hiring twenty drivers.

Orangeburg County School District says it is looking to hire 16 drivers.

Officials say drivers have been taking on multiple routes to compensate for the shortage. 

Yarborough said she started feeling the impact most during the first week of school. “The first three days to me is just like I had been working for six years straight and it has been a challenge but we knew what we had to do,” she said.

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“If we have enough drivers, we wouldn’t have to break up a lot of routes and stuff and provide that coverage and stuff. And we basically would definitely get our students there in a timely and safely manner,” said Jones.

For anyone who may be considering taking on the role, Yarborough offers these words of advice, “Before they do anything, if you don’t have the passion, the love for these babies, don’t do it. You have to have the passion and the love for ‘em.”

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