Late buses cause students to miss class

A bus driver shortage in Guilford County has prompted some buses to make multiple routes in the morning and in the afternoon to service all students


Lily Hughes

Northwest students waiting in the parking lot for their bus to come back after dropping off the first round of students.

Lily Hughes
Northwest students waiting in the parking lot for their bus to come back after dropping off the first round of students.

“Let’s go, let’s go! Y’all are gonna be late!”

This is what the hundreds of Northwest students that rode the bus on Sept. 19 heard as their bus arrived at school at 8:49 a.m., one minute before the bell rang. These tardy students were unaware as to whether or not their bus will pick them on time that morning, if at all. This issue is due to a shortage of bus drivers county-wide, leaving many students late to class on a daily basis.

“I think I’ve been late to class because of (late buses) like five or six times in the past, like, four weeks. They didn’t get to school on time at all the first week of school,” junior Sophia Ladetto said.

Each morning, Ladetto had a new bus and driver, leaving her confused as to which bus to get on. In addition to this, the bus routes have been constantly changing because of the inconsistency of bus drivers. The new drivers don’t know the most efficient routes, which leads to buses arriving even later than expected.

“(The bus drivers) weren’t consistent. We’d have a different bus and driver almost every day. And we still have a different bus every day,” Ladetto said. “It just felt like… doesn’t this seem like a big problem?”

Late buses have been affecting students’ learning, as they miss out on critical instructional time. Many students have found themselves falling behind in their first periods, including junior Mackenzie Milani-Kaufman. Milani-Kaufman is currently enrolled in AP psychology for her first period, an advanced class that is easy to fall behind in.

“What if you’re taking a test that day, then you miss half the time you have to take the test that day? You have to come and make it up at a different time,” Milani-Kaufman said. “That’s just so much time wasted.”

In the afternoon, some buses have to make two to three rounds in order to off all of the students. This leaves some students waiting in the parking lot for almost an hour after school waiting for their bus to pick them up. In addition to the affected students and staff who must supervise them, principal Ralph Kitley is also frustrated and concerned.

“Students want to stay (outside) and it’s hot and they’re having to wait,” Kitley said. “The first couple weeks, it was until 5:30; now they get picked up by 4:30. It’s not quite as bad, but what message is this sending (to the community)?”

Guilford County Schools has struggled to hire new bus drivers this year due to the job’s overall lack of appeal and low salary, forcing the existing drivers to take on additional work. Bus drivers all across the county are working tirelessly to accommodate to the shortage in staff, some of whom making two bus routes a day.

Zone transportation supervisor Betsey Kelly and department of transportation program administrator Deborah Graves both declined to comment on this issue.

What can be done to resolve the shortage in bus drivers? Guilford County is currently trying to recruit new bus drivers through county-wide emails sent to all staff members, encouraging them to sign up for bus training. In addition, Guilford County began using the Remind101 app in order to communicate with students and parents when buses are late.

“In the event your students’ bus is running late due to an emergency, breakdown, traffic, or any other unforeseen uncontrollable events you will be notified through the REMIND app,” the transportation team said in a letter to Guilford County families.

As for now, students like Ladetto and Milani-Kaufman remain disheartened and confused about this issue.

“Even the people that ride the bus don’t fully know the problem,” Milani-Kaufman said. “It’s so frustrating.”