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High number of school bus drivers calling out in DeKalb

DeKalb County School District acknowledged more bus drivers had to work additional hours to make up for the absences.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Many DeKalb County parents are concerned about their children's ride to school. The DeKalb County School District said a high number of bus drivers have called out over the last several days. 

Some parents believe COVID-19 cases, the risk of exposure, and extra work all contributed to the call outs. 

Cassandra White said her son often arrives late to school when taking the bus and sometimes his route changes altogether.

"My kid will call and say, 'hey, I’ve been waiting an hour for the bus to even come.' So, then I’ll just go and pick him up," White said. "I feel for the bus drivers. I definitely understand where they’re coming from. I would not want to be driving a bus right now. I worry about their safety.”

White also worries about parents who can't be as flexible when school buses are running late. The school district acknowledged many bus drivers are picking up extra routes and taking care of transporting more students.

“It’s extra time on the bus that they’re spending as well, so it’s a bigger COVID risk for them if they’re doing a double route," White said. "It takes them longer to get home. All around, it’s stressful.”

RELATED: Cobb County offering bonus for current, new bus drivers

Dorian Lee said he depends on the school bus system to transport his three kids to school. He said since the beginning of the school year, communication has been paramount in keeping parents informed about changes in learning, whether it's in-person or virtual, and bus routes. He believes bus drivers are essential workers and should be paid more.

"Oftentimes when you remove something, it gives people different perspective on the value of whatever it is," Lee said. "I hope it’s something that can be alleviated rather quickly, because the longer it goes, the tougher it’ll be for parents and the schools.”

The DeKalb County School District has been trying to hire more bus drivers, and in response to the shortage, the district is offering a number of incentives.

RELATED: Henry County apologizes for lengthy school bus delays

New hires are being offered about $2,000, a retention bonus of up to 6% of one's annual salary, a loyalty program that nets $1,500, and an attendance and wellness program that net $500 each. There is also a referral program within the district that will earn one $200. Any candidate who is vaccinated can also earn $1,000 with the school district.

The Division of Operations and Transportation within the school district is offering $1,200 for paid training and an additional $150 referral bonus. 

The district also rolled out a new app to help parents stay informed of their students' bus rides.

These efforts come as the state of Georgia and the country experience bus driver shortages. In August, Cobb County Schools gave bus drivers hired by September 24 a $1,200 bonus. Clayton County Schools said they are offering incentives up to $2,000 per driver, while Atlanta Public Schools is offering a $1,000 bonus to qualifying applicants. Forsyth County has also offered a bump in pay for bus drivers.

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