Fort Mill, S.C. school bus routes double up due to driver shortage

Another problem exacerbating the bus driver shortage is there are 1,600 more students riding the bus this year than last.
The district is now offering incentives to try and bring in more drivers.
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 5:25 AM EDT
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FORT MILL, S.C. (WBTV) - It’s the second week of school for students in South Carolina and in Fort Mill, a shortage of bus drivers is impacting families.

Some students are getting picked up late because drivers are having to double up on routes.

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The district is short about two dozen drivers. On Fort Mill Parkway, there are about five schools on the road alone.

It’s an area that’s really built up over the last few years, meaning there are a lot more families. Currently, there are 18,000 students in the Fort Mill School District.

Another problem exacerbating the bus driver shortage is there are 1,600 more students riding the bus this year than last.

Melissa Maynard’s sixth-grade son is riding the bus this year. She said he usually gets to the bus stop around 7:10 or 7:15 a.m., but his bus picked him up at 8 on the first day of school.

“The first day of school, his bus didn’t even come to get him until 8 o’clock and school starts at 8:10. He was texting like ‘oh my gosh my bus isn’t here, on a bus drove by and said oh we’re full,” she said.

There are 74 total routes with nine double routes.

“The bus is running the route twice so the bus may make that route one time with one load, they’ll drop off all their kids for part of the route, they’ll come back reload and finish the remainder of the students in that district,” said Joseph Burke the district’s Chief Communications Officer.

At this week’s school board meeting, district leaders got an update on the driver situation and how it’s impacting families.

“Our transportation department, we do have some double routes that we’ve had to create in several of our schools. We are up about 1,600 riders from last year to this year, which is pretty impressive,” Grey Young, assistant superintendent of student services and administration for the Fort Mill School District, said. “I mean, a lot of people are utilizing the buses, but it does cause somewhat of an issue when we’re short drivers.”

Maynard says her son has also gotten home thirty minutes later than expected and she feels the district needs to do a better job communicating potential delays, especially for students on the doubled routes.

“Where’s our communication letting us know hey by the way your student’s riding a bus that’s not going to be a first pick they’re going to be a second pick and a second drop-off,” she said. “I’d be okay with that if you like me know but you know let me know and that’s where my frustration comes from.”

Burke says they’re working to iron out the issues and encouraged parents to download the Ride 360 app which shows arrival and departure times.

“Bear with us we will be able to work through all the issues in the next week or so and hopefully we’ll get everything solved,” he said.

The district posted a flyer on its Facebook page in an effort to recruit drivers.

The district is offering an incentive of $200 to current drivers if they recommend a potential driver who gets hired. They also said that the drivers who work 30 or more hours a week qualify for benefits.

They are offering bonuses and applicants do need a commercial driver’s license, but they will be trained.

The district has more transportation details on its website.