Bus drivers needed — desperately

As the children’s song says, the wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round. Unless there’s no one to drive the bus.

The Randolph County school system is nearing a crisis situation: there simply aren’t enough available bus drivers to handle the routes every day of the school year. And many other West Virginia counties are facing the same problems, officials said.

Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Terry George said the school system is in dire need of substitute bus drivers.

“There have been numerous times during this school year that transportation director Randy Long has had to go out and serve as a substitute driver, as have our mechanics, which takes time away from maintaining the buses,” George said.

“If not for our retired drivers who now work as substitutes, we couldn’t make it right now,” he said. “It’s a problem all over the state.”

In Kanawha County, school officials have said that recent retirements and employee illnesses have created a shortage of drivers this year. There aren’t enough substitutes to cover the routes in that county, either.

“I am begging for substitute drivers,” Sandy Burdette, the supervisor at the East Bank bus terminal in Kanawha County, told the press in August.

George said Randolph County school officials are also on the lookout for people interested in driving a school bus.

“We’ve just started our first class for substitute bus drivers this school year- it’s taken us since September to get a class together,” George said. “It’s very difficult to find people.”

Those who complete the class will get their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), a valuable certification, George said. Substitute bus drivers are eligible to be considered for full-time positions when there’s an opening, he said.

“Our full-time drivers come from our substitute list, so there’s a big effect when we don’t have substitutes,” George said.

Randolph County will offer the next training class for substitute drivers as quickly as possible, he said.

“We’ll start another class as soon as we have a list of six to 10 applicants,” George said.

Anyone interested in taking the class should call the Randolph County Board of Education office at 304-636-9150.

Yes, the wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round – but without enough drivers, the school system’s wheels just might fall off.