Both local public school systems have been talking about buses.
After an Georgia Department of Transportation audit that ceased a 35-year agreement between Rome City Schools and the Rome Transit Department, the city school system started its own fleet of buses this year.
RCS Transportation Director Darrell Womack said having their own system is much more efficient than partnering with the Transit Department.
“It’s a lot more efficient as far as safety goes,” he said. ”Our buses are equipped with the stop arms. It’s safer for them to board the buses.”
Prior to students traveling on the yellow school buses, drivers were not required to stop for RTD buses. It’s a state law for drivers to stop for yellow school buses in both directions unless there is a raised median on a street with two-lane traffic.
The change, to this point, has been a welcome one.
“So far in the last month, one person has called saying that a truck passed her bus,” he said.
Both school systems are hiring bus drivers as well.
Floyd County Superintendent Jeff Wilson acknowledged the competition that comes with hiring bus drivers in regard to neighboring school systems.
Wilson said Floyd County Schools pays bus drivers around $11,000 per year, along with benefits for a first-year driver with no experience. The city system pays about $1,000 more.
Wilson said a raise for bus drivers is worth it, even if that means cutting something out of the budget.
“If we can’t get kids to school, we can’t have school,” Wilson said. “Honestly, ensuring that we have enough bus drivers is important enough that if I have to cut something else out of the budget, I’ll cut something out of the budget.”
Just offering the bus drivers a raise might cost around $265,000 annually, Wilson said. He attributed that figure to a possible 5% raise for bus drivers and nutrition staff workers by Governor Brian Kemp. Wilson said that part of the figure would have to do with potential incentives for bus drivers, like those who have perfect attendance.
Ultimately, approving any raises is something that has to be done by the Floyd County Board of Education.
At a recent work session, board members listened to issues the county system is having with bus drivers. At that point the system was short five drivers and has had to come up with ways to deal with the issue.
One way they’ve coped with the shortage is to have teachers with the proper licenses to fill in and drive bus routes.