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Wake, Guilford County Schools face severe bus driver shortage

A Wake County Public Schools bus.
A Wake County Public Schools bus.

Wake County Public Schools and Guilford County Schools are facing a shortage of bus drivers.

More than 150 drivers were absent late last week in Wake County, and Guilford County Schools had 76 drivers who were out Friday with COVID-19.

Wake County Public Schools is encouraging families to check the status of their child's bus on its transportation website.

In Guilford County, GCS Superintendent Sharon Contreras said those coronavirus absences, plus ongoing vacancies, amounted to a third of the district's typical number of drivers.

Contreras announced Friday night that the district will suspend bus service to eight high schools in Greensboro and High Point for at least two weeks. The affected students are:

Students who live in the City of High Point and attend:

  • Andrews High School*
  • High Point Central *
  • Kearns Academy*

Students who live in the City of Greensboro and attend:

  • Dudley High School*
  • Grimsley High School *
  • Page High School*
  • Smith High School*
  • The Academy at Smith*

*Magnet School students who live outside the city are not impacted and will continue to receive GCS yellow bus transportation

Through a newly announced partnership with city officials, affected students can instead ride public transit for free.

"We are happy to announce that beginning on Monday these same students who attend a high school in the city of High Point or the city of Greensboro will be able to access public transportation for free," said Contreras.

Students must show their student ID cards, also called One Cards, to ride city buses for free. According to aninfo packet released by GCS, students will be considered absent if they do not come to school using public transportation or other means. Contreras encouraged affected families to practice using the city buses or to drive their children to school if they are able.

In addressing why the district has not chosen to move to remote schooling at this time, Contreras cited feedback from parents.

"What we heard loud and clear from parents, please keep schools open. It has just caused so much of a problem for students to be home. And it's caused social, emotional problems. It's caused learning loss problems. It's caused problems for our parents who work," she said.

Contreras emphasized her hope that the bus driver shortage will not be long-lasting.

"This is a temporary crisis, we're going to get through this. Hopefully, we'll get through it in the next couple of weeks, it may be slightly longer," said Contreras.

The Guilford County Schools' priorities are keeping schools open in-person and giving families advance notice of any major changes, said Contreras.

Copyright 2022 North Carolina Public Radio

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.
Laura Pellicer is a producer with The State of Things (hyperlink), a show that explores North Carolina through conversation. Laura was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, a city she considers arrestingly beautiful, if not a little dysfunctional. She worked as a researcher for CBC Montreal and also contributed to their programming as an investigative journalist, social media reporter, and special projects planner. Her work has been nominated for two Canadian RTDNA Awards. Laura loves looking into how cities work, pursuing stories about indigenous rights, and finding fresh voices to share with listeners. Laura is enamored with her new home in North Carolina—notably the lush forests, and the waves where she plans on moonlighting as a mediocre surfer.