1/18/16 Bus driver shortage may mean double duty

Bus driver shortage may mean double duty
Cafeteria workers and custodians may have to drive school buses
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 1/18/16    
Reprinted with permission.      

A shortage of bus drivers in the Alamance-Burlington School System could mean new school employees would be required to be licensed and ready to drive routes.

A proposed policy before the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education would require new “classified” employees — cafeteria workers, custodians, teacher assistants and others, like graduation coaches — to get licensed and sign bus-driving agreements as a condition of employment.

The district is short five full-time drivers, but the biggest worry is keeping a pool of substitute drivers to fill in on sick days, according to Assistant Superintendent Todd Thorpe. The school board raised bus-drivers’ wages to $11.60 per hour in the current budget to keep drivers in the district.

“This board deserves a big thank you for the increase in pay that has helped bus drivers want to stay with us a little longer,” Thorpe said at the school board’s January work session. “But we still have a deficit.”

The board will have the chance to vote on the policy Jan. 25. Some members had concerns about fairness. Board member Patsy Simpson said some of those employees, including teacher assistants, have second jobs, and worry about scheduling conflicts if they have to drive bus routes.

“That’s the concern that has been raised to me,” Simpson said.

Board member Tony Rose said he did not want employees losing hours at their regular jobs to fill in as bus drivers if they would not be making as much.

“I just want to make sure we don’t hurt people in the way we apply this policy,” Rose said.

Thorpe said it would be up to principals to work out schedules with employees. He said there are employees like cafeteria workers who work part-time and could add bus routes to their days pretty easily. The additional hours also could make those employees eligible for benefits, Thorpe told the Times-News. Other employees like teacher assistants would be available as substitute drivers.

Current employees and those hired before the policy went into effect would not be obligated to be licensed or sign agreements unless they are already licensed, in which case they would have to maintain their licenses.

Employees would be exempt if they are medically unable or legally not allowed to drive buses.