With fewer drivers, Wake County reroutes school buses -- again
Posted August 26, 2016 1:12 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2016 2:37 p.m. EDT
Cary, N.C. — For the third year in a row, students and parents in Wake County will have to make some adjustments ahead of the school year because school bus routes are changing once again.
Sixty-five fewer school buses will take to the roads when traditional-calendar schools begin Monday.
Two years ago, Wake County had 925 full-time bus drivers. Last year, that number fell to 825.
In 2016-17, 760 full-time drivers will haul children to the county's 171 elementary, middle and high schools.
Lisa Luten, a spokesperson for the Wake County Public School System, says the system has been working to increase the efficiency of school bus operations.
"This is our third year of making improvements so that we design the most efficient routing to get our students to school on time," Luten said.
One factor in the adjustments, Luten said, is the challenge of retaining bus drivers. The improving economy has allowed some bus drivers to leave for better-paying jobs, Luten said.
The county gave drivers a 3 percent raise last year, but it hasn't reversed the trend as the school system keeps growing. The Wake County Public School System had an average daily enrollment of 157,180 students last year, making it the largest in the state and 16th largest in the nation.
Despite fewer buses on the roads, the school system says buses won't be overcrowded.
By law, a bus cannot exceed its maximum capacity. Luten says students who rode to school on half-full buses a year ago may now go to school on a three-fourths full bus.
Bus route information is available on the system's website, as well as information about how to apply for open bus driver positions.
Salaries begin at $12.55 per hour. Drivers receive full-time benefits with a minimum of 30 hours of employment per week. Those benefits include annual leave and holiday pay, officials said.
Candidates must be at least 18 years old with a valid North Carolina driver's license for a minimum of two years and a clean driving record.
Wake County officials offered the following tips for new bus riders:
- Students should arrive at the bus stop 15 minutes early. Buses sometimes run off-schedule during the first weeks of school as students and bus drivers settle into the routine.
- Parents should be present at the child's bus stop to ensure the child arrives and departs safely
- In the afternoon, drivers will only discharge pre-K, kindergarten, and first-grade students when a responsible person is present to pick them up. If no one is present, the child will be returned to the school or district office
- Parents and children should memorize bus route numbers and stops. Parents will need these in the event of an emergency
- If children need to cross the street to board the bus, parents should teach them to wait until the crossing control arm is completely deployed, to look and listen to make sure all vehicles are stopped, and to cross the street in front of the bus