ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Students are heading back to school, and officials with Anderson School District One said they need more bus drivers.

“I’ve been doing personnel for quite some time and I have never seen a need quite so great,” said Becky Brady, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel at Anderson School District One. “We have always been able to recruit and retain drivers, but with the current labor shortage, in addition to our unprecedented growth, that we are seeing in Anderson One, and with our drivers that we have retain, deciding to retire, the need in Anderson One just to began school is great.”

District leaders said there’s so much growth happening all over.

“I can certainly say due to the growth, and just due to the ongoing needs in our district of Powdersville, Wren, Palmetto communities, constantly are growing,” said Brad Moore, Director of Elementary Education at Anderson School District One. “There’s more and more of a need. We certainly see that reflected in the need for additional drivers.”

“For us, it is critical that we have enough drivers and there is a critical need for our district, to ensure that we’re getting our students here on time ready to learn and have a successful school day,” Moore said.

Brady said they need four to five more school bus drivers.

“Right now, currently we’re down about four to five drivers, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you are looking closely at routes and the number of routes we need, and plus in addition to the growth that we’re seeing, where additional drivers are needed, and the issue of the retiring drivers, we could be down quite a number of drivers when mid-year,” Brady said.

Moore said quality drivers are essential, especially for younger students.

“Parents certainly are always concerned about the safety of their children, and that includes safety on the bus and the ability to make sure that they have a ride to and from school,” Moore said. “So, that’s always at the forefront of our parents – just decisions that they make, leading up to the school year.”

“Our bus drivers play an incredible role in just ensuring that we’re ready for day one. And so for us, at the elementary level, some of our youngest learners rely on bus transportation. You know their parents are working. There are needs in the family that require bus transportation,” Moore said.

The district has been addressing the issue for the last couple of years.

“We have given a lot of pay incentives, especially last year. We gave quite a significant raise to our drivers and this year as well. And we are also trying to get our drivers trained and ready to hit the road as soon as possible,” Brady said. “We increased drivers salary 20 percent last year, and then eight percent this year. We have made the wage very competitive,” she said.

The district is offering to pay $16.02 per an hour, to start, as a full-time driver. Brady said the amount increases every year after that.

“The other positive is the retirement. Bus drivers get retirement, state retirement, which is always a very nice incentive as well as benefits, medical benefits,” Brady said.

Brady said having experience to start the job is not required. Trainer Robert Sloan teaches drivers how to do the job.

“I have gotten someone ready in two weeks. They get their license, and that’s going through everything. The driving, going to that course, getting them ready for the DMV, everything,” Sloan said.

Brady said the district pays for CDL training and encouraged those who are interested to apply.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to give back to kids,” Brady said. “It’s just an opportunity to help students in a very, very critical way,” she said.

“We keep an application up at all times on our website. People can go in – applicants can go in and apply,” Brady said. “Then as soon as they apply, our director of transportation contacts them and we get them processed as soon as possible,” Brady said.

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