Many school districts experiencing shortage in support staff

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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — School district leaders across the state are filling more vacant teacher positions than normal this summer, but the number of support staff vacancies are just as staggering for most.

Each district News13 reached out to has some vacancies in the cafeteria and on custodial staff, but the common issue among every district, a lack of bus drivers.

“We are always looking for bus drivers,” Angelia Scott, the human resource director for Florence School District Three said.

Florence School District Three serves about 3,300 students across Olanta, Lake City, Coward and Scranton. During a July board meeting, the district said it was in “desperate need” of drivers.

The bus driver shortage is not unique to Florence Three.

“If you look at vacancies across school districts and across the nation, it’s a national problem,” said Mary Anderson, the chief human resources officer for Horry County Schools.

A national study from Hop Skip Drive suggests, 78% of responders are “constrained by the bus driver shortage.” 

District leaders for Horry County Schools said they need to hire about 100 drivers to be fully staffed and they anticipate starting the year with a shortage.

In July, the district held a job fair for the open positions, but leaders say it wasn’t as successful as they needed it to be.

“We operate [374] school buses and they may not all be on the road due to shortages that we have, but we do have supervisors and other employees within the transportation department that do have a CDL license that are able to pick up routes as well,” district spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said.

Bourcier adds the district will likely have to change routes and timing to accommodate students and drivers.

Changing arrival times for students in Florence 1 Schools began the first week of school. The district released the following statement after dozens of families complained their child was hours late getting home.

“The Florence 1 Schools Transportation Department is operating this year under a severe bus driver shortage.  Even though there is a shortage, the transportation team is working very hard to serve the students who ride the buses. We trust that parents and community members are aware that the bus driver shortage is not only a Florence 1 Schools issue, but also a state and national issue as well. Our current bus drivers are serving their current routes, plus over 14 double routes, which causes a delay in student arrivals/dismissals. The good news is that there are over 14 Florence 1 school employees whom we are grateful for that have agreed to serve as bus drivers in addition to maintaining obligations of their regular jobs. In addition, due to the high volume of late registration, our transportation department has had to accommodate students that were not on schedule to be transported to and from school during this first week.  Because of this, more students and more time were added to routes which further compounded late arrivals. Furthermore, we also established a hotline for parents/guardians to call to quickly resolve these issues.  The phone number is 843-954-5100. We want our community to know that Florence 1 Schools is doing its best to safely transport students to and from school.  We seek parental patience and understanding as we continue working to reduce the bus driver shortage and improve student transportation.”

Back in Horry County, the district is offering bus drivers a bonus up to $1,500 a semester for new and returning drivers.

Other districts are upping their hourly rate.

“This year we took a look at our pay scales and we actually moved several departments including our bus drivers,” Scott with FS3 said.

Horry County Schools will host another bus driver job fair Thursday August 12th.

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