More than 30 DeKalb school bus drivers miss work, canceling routes

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April 20, 2018 DeKalb County: A DeKalb County School District bus driver pulls out from a row of parked buses at the DeKalb County School District complex at 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard in Stone Mountain. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

By Zachary Hansen

Dozens of DeKalb County school bus drivers missed work Friday morning, leading to some canceled routes and confusion among parents. The scramble to pick up students could continue this afternoon after classes are dismissed.

DeKalb County Schools, which is among the metro Atlanta school districts dealing with a bus driver shortage, confirmed that a “high number” of drivers were absent Friday morning. Several bus routes were delayed or canceled, forcing parents to figure out alternative transportation.

While the school district didn’t provide a specific number, Doraville Councilman Andy Yeoman said he confirmed more than 30 bus drivers missed their morning shift. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution several parents were contacted by their respective schools about the shortage.

“Upon learning of the absences, the district immediately communicated with families so that they can plan for alternative transportation to and from school today,” DeKalb Schools said in a statement to the AJC.

Kingsley Elementary School, located in Dunwoody, posted on Facebook that two routes were going to be missed Friday. The city also warned parents that “significant delays this afternoon are expected” after school ends. Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch added that parents should have “space and grace” Friday afternoon when picking up their kids, since heavier-than-normal traffic is likely.

The school district did not explain why so many drivers missed work Friday. The district’s statement primarily focused on the widespread worker shortage that’s affected many industries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just like other districts in the metro Atlanta area and nationally, the district is experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers,” the statement continued. “Our dedicated drivers are working extra hours to get our students to school safely and on time. Through meetings with our bus drivers, they have shared concerns with staff and the district is addressing those concerns.”

In mid-August, district leaders said it had about 112 bus driver vacancies. It’s offering a $600 stipend for new drivers who complete training and an additional $600 after they have driven students for 30 days.

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