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TCSS warns parents of possible bus service disruptions

The Troup County School System is dealing with a bus driver shortage due to COVID-19 issues and wants parents to be aware that some adjustments might be made to bus routes.

Superintendent Brian Shumate said the school system was roughly five bus drivers short on Wednesday but moved people around and made adjustments to get every student picked up.

“We’ve got all hands on deck today,” Shumate said, noting the school system has roughly 150 bus drivers. “All hands on deck —that’s including trainers and mechanics, supervisors, everybody’s driving the bus today, and we’re still five drivers short.”

Due to the shortage, some of the routes are being adjusted as needed.

The reasons for the shortage are mostly related to COVID-19, Shumate said. Some transportation employees have a positive case of COVID-19, but not many. Tuesday’s COVID-19 update from TCSS showed two transportation employees with a positive case of COVID-19 and four in quarantine due to close contact with someone with COVID-19. Some employees are also dealing with extended effects from COVID and haven’t yet returned to work.

And that’s on top of normal reasons that people miss work, such as doctor’s appointments or their kids being sick.

Shumate said parents will be notified of any changes that impact their child’s bus route via the SendIt app. For instance, if a bus is running 15 minutes late due to route changes or doubling up routes, parents would be notified there.

Shumate also recommended using the Here Comes the Bus App, which gives parents information on where the bus is. TCSS said in a press release that more delays are anticipated in the afternoon.

“They can monitor the whereabouts of the bus,” he said.

About half of Troup County’s total students ride the bus, so there are roughly 6,000 bus riders each day.

Chip Medders, assistant superintendent, said last year TCSS had 15 substitute bus drivers. This year the school system only has two.

“We do have a big push always to hire bus drivers,” Medders said.

He said the issue is that a CDL license is required and that takes about six weeks to obtain. Plus, there’s another week of training required. TCSS can’t hire someone with a CDL license and put them behind the wheel the next day.

“We’re trying our best to have business as usual, but we’re preparing for if that it gets worse,” Shumate said of the shortages.

Some options during the shortage are to double up bus routes, meaning a driver might run one bus route, then return to the school and pick up kids for the second bus route. Or, if two routes are small enough, combine two bus routes and put those children on the same bus.

If bus riders are delayed, the press release said tardiness will be excused and teachers will work with students to make up work. TCSS recommends that parents have a backup plan for bus delays.

“If parents have the ability to take their kids and pick them up, that’s helpful for us,” Shumate said. “If they don’t, we certainly want to continue to provide services as best we possibly can.”

If a delay is necessary, the following communication and options will be available, per TCSS:

  • Parents will be notified via SendIt of a bus delay, whether morning or afternoon.
  • Parents may elect to bring their child to school, as well as pick them up in the afternoon.
  • Transportation will be provided for approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hour later than the normal pick up time.
  • Return home drop off time will be approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hour later than the normal.

The Troup County School System is currently seeking to employ bus drivers. TCSS provides paid CDL training, as well as a competitive salary and benefits. Applications can be submitted at https://www.applitrack.com/troup/onlineapp/. Applicants can also call (706) 812-7935 for information on how to apply.