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Wake County Schools, Parents In Numbers Game With Buses

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RALEIGH, N.C. — "Too many kids, not enough school-bus drivers" has been a running theme for certain areas of Wake County since school started two months ago.

Some parents feel they are stuck waiting to see what happens at the bus stop.

Belinda Talley and some of her neighbors feel like they are playing a numbers game with the school bus.

"We've had bus number 939," Talley said. "Last week, it was 373, then 696 and bus 607."

The parents also say diifferent bus numbers pull up at different times. Last year, the bus came at 7:10 a.m.; this year, it comes anywhere from 7:25 to 7:45.

After school, the parents say it goes from late to wait. Some drivers have to run one route and then come back to pick others up.

"Then we started to have issues with the quality of the driver," said parent Joyce Horton.

Talley noted that she watched her son's driver run a stop sign and speed.

Said Horton: "We've certainly had some challenges this year."

The Wake County Schools Transportation Department said it has challenges, too. The department knew at the beginning of the year that there was going to be a driver shortage for two areas: Wakefield and Apex. There were 20 positions to fill and not enough people applying for the job.

"Today, we're much better off than we were then," said Transportation Director Vern Hatley. "As a matter of fact, of the 20, 15 positions have been filled already."

Hatley said he also dealt with Talley's complaint about the driver. She received a letter saying her son has a new driver; the old one was assigned to additional training.

Talley said things are getting better, but she still sees different numbers.

"Two-forty eight," she said as a bus pulled up. "Have you ever seen 248 before?"

The district expects more consistency with the numbers by mid-October.

Hatley said the county is growing at such a fast rate that bus routes inevitably will change from year to year and throughout the school year to accommodate all the new students coming in.

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