Bus driver shortage impacting Wilson County families - WSMV News 4

Bus driver shortage impacting Wilson County families

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(WSMV file photo) (WSMV file photo)
MOUNT JULIET, TN (WSMV) -

A bus driver shortage in Wilson County is impacting families who send their children to school. Some parents say their kids aren’t being picked up in the morning.

“It’s three days since winter break that he hasn’t been picked up,” said Tish Towns, a concerned mother.

Towns said her 11-year-old son attends Mt. Juliet Elementary School and rides the bus to get there. She has to be at work before her son gets on the bus.

“If they don’t show up in the morning, I don’t send him at all. If I can’t get to him that afternoon myself, then I don’t send him at all because now I’m scared that he will be stuck at school,” Towns said.

Wilson County Schools Transportation Director Jerry Partlow admits there’s a problem. There just aren’t enough drivers.

“All I can do is apologize, and we’re doing our very best we can to get the kids home,” Partlow said.  “A lot of our drivers are pitching in and coming back and doing second routes.”

Robo-calls even say so, and it shows in numbers from Wilson County Schools. Since 2013, they’ve hired 47 drivers but lost 67 drivers, according to Partlow.

“If you talk to our surrounding counties, you’re going to find they’re facing the same issues,” Partlow said.

He said sometimes drivers cancel at the last minute, so parents may not get enough notice to pick up their kids.

“Normally, we start working on filling afternoon routes from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., then around 1:15 p.m. we start assembling our robo-calls to be sent out,” Partlow said.

Parents like Towns are frustrated with the process and want to know when the district will hire more drivers.

“I’ve got to the able to go to work and know he’s getting to and from school like he should be,” Towns said.

Partlow said parents are responsible for their child.

“I understand it’s an inconvenience for the parents, and it’s becoming pretty much mandatory in today’s society,” Partlow said. “If we can get a bus back through there, we’re glad to do that. But ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the parents.”

Wilson County Schools said they have money to hire more drivers but need applicants. Potential drivers have to pass a background check and complete training to get a license. School officials said drivers get paid $13.68 an hour, and receive free healthcare at any Care Here clinic. They became vested after 5 years when a driver qualifies for retirement benefits, officials said.

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