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Students face overcrowding and long wait times amid Georgia's bus driver shortage

Several districts are still working to fill a gap and employ enough drivers to meet the demand of students riding the bus.

PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. — Georgia parents may have noticed school bus routes look a little different for their children this year.  

Since the start of the school year, students across the metro area have faced overcrowding along with longer wait and ride times when taking the bus. This is due to the ongoing bus driver shortage throughout Georgia. 

Several districts are still working to fill a gap and employ enough drivers to meet the demand of students riding the bus. 

As of Thursday, Paulding County still has 45 open driver positions. 

Additionally, both Fulton and Cobb County are looking to recruit around 200 people, each. 

Chief Strategy and Accountability Officer for Cobb County School District, John Floresta told 11Alive the impacts of the driver shortage on their schools. 

“That means we have bus drivers running what we call double and triple runs, which means that the schedule, the bus schedule, might be a little bit different than what it was. Pick up might be a little bit earlier, might be a little bit later,” Floresta said. 

Paulding County officials said they are using the first couple of weeks of school to “balance our available buses against enrollment and ridership and adjust the number and size of school buses and their distribution as needed.”

On Thursday, Paulding added an additional 90-passenger bus to their routes and replaced two 72-passenger buses with two 90-passenger buses, however, students within the county have complained about overcrowding and buses having three people to a seat.

11Alive reached out to the county concerning this matter, and in a statement, Paulding explained, “While some buses have been crowded, they are not over capacity. Students are not allowed to sit on the floor of the bus or stand.”

“While sitting two to a seat is preferred, three passengers to a seat is acceptable and safe under capacity regulations when necessary. Every student should have a seat,” the statement added. 

Both Paulding and Cobb said that it could take weeks for the density to decrease on the buses but said they are working to recruit new drivers. 

In Paulding, the district is offering multiple incentives to bring in new hires. This includes $20/hour pay, a $750 signing bonus and a $150/month perfect attendance bonus. 

“These moves, along with the continued balancing of riders, buses and routes, should help ease any crowding very soon,” Paulding County said in a statement. 

At the moment, Cobb County is not offering any application incentives but Floresta said they are working on “creative and innovative ways” to bring people in. 

“At the end of the day, we need people. We need people to join our team, and we're looking at every way that we can recruit and retain the best bus drivers that we can,” Floresta said. 

In the meantime, he encourages parents who want to track their children’s bus route to download the Here Comes the Bus app. It allows them to follow the movements of their child’s designated bus route and also track any changes to their bus schedule. 

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