Wake County Schools Grapple With Student Transportation



For some schools in the county, they had no buses arrive last Friday afternoon due to the “sick-out”. Other schools in the county began dismissing students early in order to make up for the missing bus routes and to keep carpool lines manageable.

Sydney Phillips, Staff Reporter

 On Friday, October 29th, the afternoon announcements carried out like they do on most days, except for one key difference: multiple bus drivers would not be coming to school in the afternoon.

  On Thursday afternoon many parents were warned of the possibility of bus driver shortages, and told to check the ‘Here Comes the Bus’ app for updates, and organize transportation for their child in case their bus becomes unavailable. Millbrook had a reported four bus routes that did not run on Friday, and carrying over into the next week, two that did not run on Monday.

  However, for many schools, the situation was far more dire. One of Millbrook’s administrators, Mr. Shipp, said, “We have not had a lot of the issues that other schools from across the county have experienced.” Several schools throughout the county experienced far more devastating disruptions. For some of these students, they were simply unable to secure alternative transportation, forcing many of them to wait at school until late in the afternoon for buses to become available to take them home. 

  Since the beginning of the year, Wake County and other school districts across the country have been plagued with bus driver shortages, causing delays in student transportation. Some drivers are managing up to six or more bus routes which is twice what is considered normal. 

  For months, drivers have been calling attention to the conditions they are working under. While Wake County is currently offering signing bonuses, as well as increases in hourly pay, drivers throughout the county feel that these increases are not enough to make up for the increased hours they are working. Mr. Flowers, one of Millbrook’s assistant principals, gave an example of this, explaining how one bus driver who arrives later in the afternoon has to rush off the bus to use the restroom because he’s been driving for a long time with no break.

  The dramatic shortage of bus drivers, partly due to the nationwide shortage of bus drivers, was exacerbated by the “sick-out” that Wake County bus drivers organized on Friday to call attention to the situation. Over the pandemic, these bus drivers have been forced to work longer hours, serving more routes without adequate increase in pay. When asked about the strike, Mr. Flowers said, “It’s pretty sad when a bus driver can stop driving a bus, go to Target, and make more money at Target welcoming people at the front door than they can driving a bus.” He further explains, saying “Many of [the bus drivers] drive because they like kids, and they like working with them but we are going to lose them if we do not start paying them more.” While Mr. Shipp agreed, he also wanted to call attention to who would be the most affected by this strike, saying, “Anyone that is in education, whether it is a bus driver, a custodian, a teacher, a cafeteria worker… when we go on strike that means that the first people impacted are our students.”

  Mr. Shipp, wanting to assure students and families, would also like to say to the community, “I hope that as we are continuing to go to school through this pandemic, we continue to offer grace, not only to our students but also to the staff that work in our school system.”