The Williamson County Board of Commissioners approved the spending of $2.03 million for the purchase of 21 buses for Williamson County Schools at its Jan. 13 meeting.
The purchase comes at a time when the school system is dealing with a shortage of bus drivers, according to WCS Superintendent Jason Golden.
“I’ve been sent emails and also photographs of buses where students are standing due to a lack of bus drivers,” County Commissioner Keith Hudson said during the meeting. “I would like to know what we are doing to recruit more bus drivers because we are getting into a safety issue with the children standing.”
Golden said bus driver recruitment was not only a challenge in Williamson County but also throughout Middle Tennessee and in many metro areas across the country.
“We were in a crisis about two-and-a-half, three years ago where we couldn’t even, with delays, serve all of our students, and you all, as a commission, helped us do a significant pay raise for drivers. It actually helped us avert a crisis,” Golden said.
Golden said there were currently bus drivers assigned to every route, but they were short on substitutes to cover for drivers who get sick.
“We recruit at job fairs, we recruit directly, every opportunity I get when we talk about drivers with our families, I tell them, ‘If we had about 15 or so more drivers to cover those sick days, we’d be fine. Do you know somebody?’” Golden said.
Golden said bus drivers and substitute drivers receive full health benefits and make about $18 and hour. The school system also provides $10 an hour for those who wish to train to become a bus driver for the county, Golden said.
Of the 21 buses being purchased, 14 are replacing existing buses that have aged out, six will accommodate growth in the school system and another will be used as a bus for special education students.
The buses are expected to be in operation in time for the start of the 2020-21 school year in August.