GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Schools will give bus drivers $1,000 if they work every day for a month as the district grapples with a shortage of drivers.
The bonuses have been $100 since October 2021. Drivers are able to get the bonuses multiple times. GCS Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras said the bonuses are part of multiple incentives the district is using to recruit and retain drivers.
"Many of the logistics folks are paying CDL licensed drivers much more money than we could ever compete with. Really for bus drivers in the school district, it’s all about recruitment and retention," said Guilford County Board of Education member Pat Tillman.
Since Monday, high schoolers at Greensboro and High Point schools in the Guilford County school district have not had access to school-provided transportation due to a shortage of drivers. Instead, the district partnered with both Greensboro and High Point to provide free public transportation for at least two weeks.
"I know that the Department of Labor at the national level and the Department of Transportation are working to relax some of those requirements for CDL, but it is still very difficult to get those drivers, and that’s what’s causing also some of the supply chain issues in the nation and truck drivers shortages," Dr. Contreras said Friday. "So we are going to be at this for a while I think in this country as we try to recover from this pandemic."
Tillman said they are going to need to come up with creative solutions for the shortage and some of that will involve the legislature and requirements for bus drivers. He said the district could eventually look at training their own drivers and even getting younger drivers. Right now, school bus drivers in Guilford County make $15 per hour minimum.
“I don’t know that certainly we could ever compete with private sector pay but what we can do is certainly be creative and find ways to at least find a deep deeper roster so we can be ready for those challenges," Tillman said.
This all started after the Triad's largest school district had to delay middle and high school start times on Friday, not because of bad weather or a power outage, but because they didn't have enough bus drivers to take kids to school. Guilford County Schools said COVID-19 is causing the staffing issues.
“This is nothing any of us have experienced, and it is causing us to do something unusual,” Dr. Contreras said Friday when announcing the changes.
The district is also facing a shortage of substitute teachers, so GCS is offering $1,000 bonuses for them if they work every day for a month.