DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Dorchester District 2 is working to address transportation issues and fill the gap in bus driver shortages.

Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins said during a DD2 board meeting Monday night the district was currently down several drivers but noted that new candidates are in the pipeline and being trained.

The district is transporting between 13,000 and 15,000 students.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Wilson said they had sufficient staff to run the routes during the spring but lost 10 drivers before the start of school. They are now 12 drivers short with about 13 out – as of Monday – because of illness and other reasons.

“All of this compounds the situation overall,” said Wilson. “We continue to work on avenues to try and improve the situation and we’re working with our schools and transportation department; we’re looking at routes, making adjustments in the routes, and also looking at ways to bring in additional drivers.”

The district also revised its bell schedules for middle and high schools which went into effect this week. Dr. Robbins said the plan allows the buses additional time to get through routes. “Really, it was designed so we could maximize instruction time, but it doesn’t reduce the time students have access to lunch or in their classrooms.”

As the district works to fill that gap in missing drivers, the district’s director of transportation, Steve Shope, described a near-extensive training process that includes a required academic class from the South Carolina Department of Education and a learner’s permitting process through the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

It’s there, according to Shope, some potential drivers begin to fall away from completing the process. Likely because some of the drivers have other jobs and cannot take the time to finish the learner’s permit phase, or because of procrastination.

He explained those who do obtain their learner’s permit then have a two-week minimum before they can test for a CDL, followed by a certification exam from the SC Dept. of Education.

It can take about a month to get new drivers on the roads after the academic exam and learner’s permit phases. Right now, they have about 20 people in the pipeline in various stages of the new hire process.

District leaders said they have been able to fill some of the gaps with part-time drivers. Those drivers are pulled into the schedule, like a puzzle, after the district determines the need for that day.

Dorchester District 2 has established a new email address where people can report bus transportation issues. Those concerns can be sent to bustransportation@dorchester2.k12.sc.us.