Parents Voice Frustration Over Bus Shortage

Posted at 5:30 PM, Sep 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-18 20:56:16-04

The Wilson County School Board met with dozens of families fed up with the district's bus driver shortage.

For more than a year, Wilson County Schools have temporarily suspended routes, often at the last minute, forcing parents to scramble to get students to and from school.

"The notification usually comes just as the bus is supposed to pick up in the morning," said Matt Huffaker, who has two children who ride the bus to and from school. "It doesn't come the night before, it's always last minute."

Huffaker is a single dad who works full time, which makes finding last minute transportation tough.

Under Tennessee state law, school districts are not required to provide students with transportation.

Still, Wilson County officials said they're trying every tactic they can think of to recruit drivers.

"We understand why you're frustrated, this is not something we enjoy," said Jennifer Johnson, a spokeswoman for the district. "We don't like having to pull routes down, but we also can't make people work."

Johnson said the district has attempted to give bus drivers a $2 raise, but county commissioners shot that idea down. 

They've reached out to teachers, coaches, and retirement communities to recruit workers.

Officials even started offering new schedules, which only require drivers to drive once per day instead of both in the morning and afternoon.

So far, none of those tactics have helped.

"A lot of people just don't want the responsibility," Johnson said. "There's so much more attention, particularly since the Chattanooga bus accident, on bus drivers. Sometimes they're harassed and followed by parents and a lot of people just don't want to go through that."

Monday's meeting was meant to make sure families know where the district stands. At the time of the meeting they were about 25 to 30 drivers short.

"It angers me," Huffaker said. "I went to school in this county 20 years ago and this was never an issue. Now we're having problems I've never even heard of."