Three weeks into the 2015-16 school year has brought with it some challenges on how to get our kids to school. Earlier this week, we were contacted by a tenured school bus driver who is leaving Williamson County Schools amid a shortage due to his hours being reduced making it more difficult to complete his job.
We received an overwhelming response from our readers through our website and Facebook about parents experience this school year with overcrowding of buses, double bus runs, and loss of good bus drivers. Dr. Looney, Superintendent of Williamson County Schools also commented on the current situation, “we have 8 drivers in training and are currently interviewing for a new director.” Looking forward, as Williamson County School looks to hire a Transportation Director, here are three obstacles the new WCS Transportation Director will face as we continue the school year.
1. Bus Driver Compensation
As stated by Dr. Looney: “We are working hard to recruit and retain drivers. All drivers received a 5% raise this year and we worked hard to secure it. WCS bus drivers are paid hourly for the time they drive. Driver pay could only be reduced if he/she switched routes to something shorter. Typically, this occurs when a driver requests a route closer to home or when we have to shift drivers due to growth. Drivers that are doing an extra run work longer and earn more. Those who live far from their route are compensated for their extra-long drive time.”
Although drivers did receive a 5% pay raise, multiple bus drivers said their hours were cut and expressed concern that the time allotted for a route is computer driven, giving each bus driver a set amount of time to complete his/her route–a time frame that is difficult to maintain.
A time discrepancy exists between the allotted time that drivers are paid to run their route and the actual time it takes to complete their route along with their bus inspection time.
Multiple drivers have contacted us regarding this story stating they are not paid for the complete time they are on the bus. Here is a statement from a former bus driver,”WCS bus drivers are paid hourly for the time they drive…with KIDS on the bus”…not the entire time they drive. There is a HUGE difference in these two statements. I know this first hand, as I drove a bus for WCS for 2 years and just left this past year. In some cases it takes an hour for the driver to drive from where their bus is parked (usually a school that is closest to where the driver lives) to the school that they are driving their route for. So, in this scenario…driving to the school and back in the morning is two hours unpaid for the driver…and driving there and back in the afternoon is two more hours unpaid for the driver…giving the driver 4 hours of unpaid time in the bus…per DAY! ”
Another driver came forward to say that in order to run his bus route on time he must get to his bus close to 45 minutes early to complete his inspection and arrive to his first stop. If he arrives at the bus at the time allotted, his bus route would always be late due to the traffic constraints of the area. Instead of a computer assigning route times, many current and former bus drivers feel that a Transportation Director needs to look at the actual time drivers spend getting to their destinations.
3. Williamson County Growth
As Williamson County becomes one of the fastest growing counties in Tennessee, the issue of having enough bus drivers will become more and more important. Traffic concerns have been voiced as most schools in Williamson County are at capacity. The amount of traffic that will occur if each parent drives their children to school will cause great delays in starting the school day.
“More than 200,000 residents call Williamson County home. It is considered one of the most desirable suburban locations in Tennessee because of its high standard of living, recreational amenities, shopping and top-rated schools,” states the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce website.
Currently, double bus routes have become a necessity due to the influx of families to Williamson County and some parents have stated that their children have been arriving late to school. To continue to be one of the best schools in the state, it starts first thing in the morning and that means arriving to school on time. It is disruptive to have students arriving to class 15-20 minutes after the school day has started. As some have commented on our site and Facebook, not every parent in the district has the ability to drive their student to school and relies on the bus for transportation.
Dr. Looney added,”I apologize for the inconvenience this issue has created for families. We are working diligently to resolve it. A vast majority of our drivers are hardworking, dependable, and are deserving of additional compensation. I support these individuals and will continue to work on their behalf. Hopefully, the community will support such an action in the future.”
We have reached out to County Mayor Rogers Anderson for comment and will update the story as we receive more information.WCS Bus Driver Regretfully Departs Amid Shortage