Bus driver shortages affect North Central W.Va. school operations

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TENNERTON, W.Va. – The Upshur County bus garage was relatively quiet Wednesday morning as drivers were washing their buses to prepare to run students home.

But for many counties, it’s not a sure thing whether or not buses, or more specifically, the drivers, will be ready to go every day.

“We’re one of the lucky ones right now. We’ve got people that are cross-trained working within other departments in the county school system that we rely on to help us when we get into a pinch,” said Upshur County Transportation Director Randy Hardman.

Schools around the region are facing down a shortfall of qualified bus drivers. Lewis County has cancelled multiple bus routes over the last two mornings and Barbour County officials have had to cancel four routes this year too.

Hardman said even Upshur County has had to double up on routes this year to ensure they’re all covered. Upshur County Superintendent, Dr. Sara Stankus, said the main reason schools can’t find as many qualified drivers as they’d like, is competition.

“Business and industry, let’s face it, the school system cannot compete with the salaries in say, oil and gas and those places that are looking for CDL certifications,” said Stankus.

In the past, Upshur County has advertised on social media and in other creative ways, like parking a bus on the side of the road with a banner to recruit new drivers, and that’s helped to keep them in a good situation.

But Stankus said there’s no silver bullet to fix the issue; instead, each county needs to find their own way.

“I think that bus driver’s very important and it’s an important job and each county will have to just come up with their own specific plan for how to meet those needs and how to be creative with that,” Stankus said.

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