Three school bus runs cancelled last week due to no drivers

by Kate Evans

Two Morgan County Schools bus runs and one Head Start bus runs had to be shut down last week because there were no substitute bus drivers available to transport students.

Morgan County Schools Transportation Director Tammy Painter said that on Tuesday, January 4 it was Bus 16-10, a Paw Paw route that transports around 25 students, that didn’t have a driver. Painter said they put out a call to parents the night before asking them to transport students to school.  Any students that could not be transported would qualify for an excused absence.

Painter said they had to close down Bus 19-14 on Thursday, January 6 because they had no substitute bus driver.  That bus is a special needs bus run with 10 students.  Bus 196, a Paw Paw route, had to be shut down on Monday. Painter noted that transportation office staff are all driving buses.

The school system just hired two substitute bus operators and they have bus driver positions that need filled, Painter said. As they hire substitute bus drivers, they put them in fulltime bus routes. They also have two permanent substitute bus operator positions.

Painter said that they have an open substitute bus operator position posted and hold trainings when they have enough applicants to have a class, which means at least three applicants.

School Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said that there are many days that they have all available drivers including Transportation Director Tammy Painter, Bus Supervisor Tammi Wachter and bus mechanics driving buses to make all the bus routes happen.  They’ve been fortunate to only have to take down a few routes all year.

“We are certainly in need of substitute drivers and have a new posting going up on Monday with a new round of classes starting soon.  We need as many drivers as we can get and certainly encourage people to apply and to contact Tammy Painter with any questions,” Tuttle said in a Friday email.

Interested applicants can call Morgan County Schools Human Resources Director Dale Shaffer at 304-258-2430, extension 2013.

Head Start bus run

A Head Start bus run that served pre-K students in the Great Cacapon and Paw Paw areas didn’t run Tuesday through Thursday last week due to lack of a substitute bus driver.

Head Start parents received a communication that there would be no bus for Great Cacapon and Paw Paw from January 4-7 due to having no substitute driver.   Head Start and county schools were closed on Friday due to the snow.  Parents were instructed to tell teachers the reason for their child’s absence if they couldn’t make it to class.

Michele Morris, Child Development and Disability Manager for Morgan County Head Start, said that they have four bus runs each with a designated driver but their substitute bus driver had left.  They’ve been diligently looking for substitute drivers.  The bus driver position has been posted for years on the EPIC/Head Start website with no applicants.

Bus drivers can be out for illness, a family funeral, COVID-19 exposures and quarantines, doctor’s appointments or family emergencies.  Morris said they’ve had many deaths and illnesses to cope with.

In same boat as schools

Morris said that county schools are in the same situation as they are.  They’re all looking for substitute bus drivers, aides, teachers, cooks and other personnel.  Morris said their bus drivers come through EPIC, formerly RESA 8, and not through Morgan County Schools.

Morris said that their Head Start bus drivers are very dependable.  Like the school system, Head Start has other staff stepping up to the plate and filling in when employees can’t be there so they can keep kids in school.  However they don’t have staff with CDL licenses that can fill in as bus drivers.  They’re always looking for bus drivers and classroom substitutes.

Morris said that around 14 out of 19 Head Start pre-k students rode the Great Cacapon-Paw Paw bus route.  Parents brought the other five students to the Great Cacapon classroom.

Morris said that their Great Cacapon-Paw Paw bus was still down on Monday, but kids were coming to class via parent transportation. Since they are a pre-K program, Head Start is not mandated to provide student transportation, but they try to help do that as best they can, she said. They hoped to have the bus running by mid-week.

If anyone would like to apply to be a Head Start substitute bus driver, Morris said they would be more than happy to talk to them.  Morris can be reached at Morgan County Head Start at 304-258-5335.