The first day of school came with some challenges in Limestone County.
Some of the challenges were the shortage of bus drivers and some of the buses running behind due to mechanical issues.
Nine buses were late to their schools Monday morning due to mechanical issues. That’s out of 132 buses.
Officials say the delays were caused by mechanical issues with some of the buses that are at least ten years old. They say the buses didn’t run as much over the summer and that sitting for too long can impact them.
“We were in a cycle where we bought ten buses per year, but we’ve not been able to do that for the last three years. So, that’s put a strain on us as far as the age of our fleet goes," said Rusty Bates with Limestone County Schools. "Buses that would normally be sold out, even in our system, are still on the road. It doesn’t mean they’re not safe or that they can’t run. It just means they’re older and that’s when you have the mechanical issues.”
After a few more days on the road, officials say they expect the buses to be running smoothly again with no issues. We’re waiting to find out which schools were impacted by the delays.
So far, they’ve had one reported break-down Monday afternoon. It was one of the buses that had issues Monday morning, and it will now have to be taken out of service.
The first day of school on Monday also reminded Limestone County Schools transportation officials of their extreme bus driver shortage, as many non-bus drivers had to fill in where they were needed.
This comes after 16 bus drivers retired and their spots haven’t been filled. Right now, transportation officials say they only have one substitute bus driver, when they really need at least four or five.
They’re also looking to hire more bus aides. They don’t have an exact number of drivers or aides they’d like to have, but are encouraging folks to apply. They’ve even raised the driver pay from $50 to $70 a day.
“We’ve had secretaries serve as aides to help us get by. Our mechanic staff here, our driver trainers, myself, we all drive when called upon, and that happens a lot," said Rusty Bates with Limestone County Schools. "So, we are just short-handed right now and we need the public to come in and get involved with their school process, and we’ll help them all the way through it. We just need them to be willing to come and work and train.”
Officials say there will be bus-driving classes offered in the next few weeks, and say this is a great opportunity for parents and grandparents to get involved in the school system.
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