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With only 16 school bus mechanics, Guilford County Schools are only 50% staffed

GCS has half of the number of diesel mechanics needed to maintain the district's 600 buses. District leaders say they are struggling to compete with larger garages.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — School districts across the Triad are dealing with ongoing staffing shortages. 

For Guilford County Schools, the challenge goes beyond teachers and bus drivers. 

WFMY News 2's Daniel Crews explains why the district is in such a dire need for mechanics and how they are working to fill more than a dozen positions. 

"We need experienced diesel mechanics, but we can't find them," said Mike Lee,  Director of Fleet Services for Guilford County Schools. "We are about 14 short at this point, so we are almost half, 50% strength."

Guilford County Schools only has 16 school bus mechanics managing the districts 600 buses. 

Lee says the district can't compete with higher paying jobs at large commercial garages. 

GCS was able to get ahead on maintenance over summer break. 

But with the school year underway, and more than 400 buses on the road each day, they will have turn to contractors just to keep up. 

"They're out there in the field trying to keep the bus is running, doing the best they can, doing more in the field, and then they probably should," said Lee. 

Lee says they have hired a handful of new diesel mechanics. 

They are working to get them properly trained, a process that could take years. 

Meanwhile, many of their current mechanics, who have worked there more than 30 years, are approaching retirement. 

"We can't replace them, not at this point. We're trying to build a program now, so it's going to take a while. Like I said, we've hired good young people, but it's going to take years to get them up to speed, but that's all we can do," said Lee.  

The district is hoping a $1,000 monthly attendance bonus will attract the diesel mechanics they need to maintain their buses.

Lee says the work will get done, not only to meet state requirements, but for the safety of students. 

"There's no question about the work. It Has to be done. We have to keep the bus is running," said Lee. 

In addition to the 14 diesel mechanics, Guilford County Schools also needs to fill 66 full-time and 16 part-time school bus driver positions. 

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