BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – A nationwide bus driver shortage is impacting Berkeley County schools as the district began the school year with 40 driver vacancies. BCSD has 263 busses, but not quite enough drivers to fill each one.
“Based on our current numbers, we’re about 35% short bus drivers,” said Katie Tanner, a representative of the district.
Hours before the first day of school, BCSD’s transportation department put out a call to staff members with a commercial driver’s license asking for volunteer bus drivers for the first day of school. Several staff members stepped up to the plate including Stratford High School Assistant Principal, Dr. Mathis Burnette. He’s no stranger to hopping behind the wheel of a bus.
“I was a coach until about a month ago,” explained Burnette. “So, I’ve driven activity busses for roughly 12 years.”
Dr. Burnette drove three groups of kids today, elementary, middle, and high school, with the help of a bus assistant who pointed Burnette in the right direction and kept him on track.
“I was basically the machinery and she showed me where to go,” said Burnette.
Teamwork is something Dr. Burnette has always believed in. Stepping up to the plate was the right move, he says.
“It’s all hands on deck time. I know that. I’ve always been a big team guy. Our team needed somebody to do something so I had the opportunity to help and I didn’t see a reason not to.”
Around 20,000 BCSD students rely on busses. Because of the shortage, some drivers do double routes and some students have staggered pick-up times.
“About 20 busses are running double routes depending on the area and the need in the area,” said Tanner.
Several other BCSD staff members stepped up to the plate to volunteer for transportation duty this week.
“Many other staff members who hold those CDL certifications also stepped up and said if you need help, I’m willing to do it. We’ll get kids to school safely and try to minimize delays as much as possible. So I really think they are the heroes of the day,” said Tanner.
“I want our kids here, we want our kids here. I can’t imagine a worse way to start the year than being late the first day because you didn’t have a driver. So, it’s a situation we know is tough, but if I can help in some small way then I’m going to do that,” said Dr. Burnette.
BCSD has roughly 40 openings for bus drivers, and Dorchester District 2 has 11 openings.