SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Coastal Georgia’s largest school district is so short of bus drivers that it may not be able to transport all students in the coming school year.
The Savannah-Chatham County school district said this week that it has only 217 bus drivers right now and that it needs 290 to 300 drivers to carry all the students who normally ride the bus.
The district says 25,000 of its 36,000 students typically ride buses.
Unless it can hire more drivers, Savannah-Chatham County warns that it won’t be able to transport students who attend “choice” schools other than the schools for which their home is zoned. It also says it won’t be able to provide bus service to charter schools.
The district made the announcement Tuesday. Parents are required to register their students to ride the bus by Friday. For now, Savannah-Chatham County says it will transport students who attend schools in their home zones, as well as homeless students, non-English speakers and those with special education needs.
The school system said in a statement that the job market is tight for bus drivers and that the pandemic exacerbated a shortage that had been building for years.
“Competition among other transportation companies combined with the extensive training and credential requirements for drivers is contributing to staffing challenges,” the district said.
Savannah-Chatham County said it’s trying to hire more bus drivers and that it could add the ability to carry more students. But the district said that once the first semester starts in August, it will keep the same bus routes until at least January.
“We just have reached the point where the resources are not available to provide those services,” Tammy Perkins, the district’s lead director of transportation, told the Savannah Morning News. “We are making the announcements as early as we possibly can to give families an opportunity over the next few weeks to make some adjustments and arrangements for their students.”