Route changes possible as Horry County Schools short nearly 100 bus drivers

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CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Schools is short nearly 100 bus drivers, which means some route changes are possible. 

The district said the number of openings normally sits around 40 and 50, but now it is more than double. Lisa Bourcier, spokesperson for Horry County Schools, said the district is looking to fill as many openings as it can.

“The big push for us going into this school year is certainly bus drivers,” Bourcier said. “We are looking for individuals who would like to come to Horry County Schools and work as a school bus driver.”

Routes are still in the process of being finalized, but parents can check for bus stops online. The district said transportation will be provided no matter what, but if enough drivers are not hired, changes might have to be made.

“We will be adjusting, possibly, some routes and some timing for that,” Bourcier said. “People are still registering for schools. We’re still gathering information from parents on the transportation needs of our students and that may continue to change throughout the school year, so you’ll certainly see changes throughout the school year as well.”

One way Horry County Schools can fill in any gaps is by having certified staff substitute on routes and pick up shifts.

“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.”

Horry County Schools is currently offering new and returning bus drivers bonuses of up tp $1,500 each semester this coming school year as an incentive to attract and retain drivers.

One of the big reasons why the district is short drivers is because a number of them chose to retire in the past year. Bourcier said many other districts are facing a similar shortage.

“It’s not just Horry County,” Bourcier said. “We are seeing other school districts, not only in South Carolina, but across other states really looking for bus drivers as well.”

Horry County Schools held a Job fair July 22 for prospective bus drivers. It did not go as well as the district had hoped. Another fair is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 12. 

Anyone interested can apply online. The district will cover the costs of obtaining the proper license and training to become a bus driver.

“We do provide CDL training and licensing for our individual applicants as well,” Bourcier said. “If [interested people] don’t have a computer they’ll be able to come in [Aug. 12] and actually makes those applications in person.”

Bourcier said the right candidate to become a school bus driver needs a specific set of qualities. She added that there are a variety of reasons someone might choose that job. 

“It takes a certain person to be a bus driver, especially with children,” Bourcier said. “You have to love children. Sometimes, we get a lot of, not only retirees that would like to be bus drivers, but also moms and dads that want to go back to work but want to be at home when their kids are home. This is a perfect opportunity for that.”

Base pay for the position is $13.25 an hour. Bourcier said a challenge to finding bus drivers is that it is only for half the year.

“It’s a full time job, but it doesn’t go 12 months,” Bourcier said. “But we do offer full benefits. It is a full time position, so there’s a lot of benefits with working for the school district as receiving the state retirement.”

The first day of school is Aug. 17. School bus riders will not be required to wear masks, but they are recommended.

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