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Wake, Guilford County Schools face severe bus driver shortage

A Wake County Public Schools bus.
Brian Batista
A school bus driver shortage at Wake County Public Schools and Guilford County Schools has prompted administrators to find workarounds to get students to class.

Wake County Public Schools and Guilford County Schools are facing a shortage of bus drivers.

More than 150 drivers were absent late last week in Wake County, and Guilford County Schools had 76 drivers who were out Friday with COVID-19.

Wake County Public Schools is encouraging families to check the status of their child's bus on its transportation website.

In Guilford County, GCS Superintendent Sharon Contreras said those coronavirus absences, plus ongoing vacancies, amounted to a third of the district's typical number of drivers.

Contreras announced Friday night that the district will suspend bus service to eight high schools in Greensboro and High Point for at least two weeks. The affected students are:

Students who live in the City of High Point and attend:

  • Andrews High School*
  • High Point Central *
  • Kearns Academy*

Students who live in the City of Greensboro and attend:

  • Dudley High School*
  • Grimsley High School *
  • Page High School*
  • Smith High School*
  • The Academy at Smith*
    *Magnet School students who live outside the city are not impacted and will continue to receive GCS yellow bus transportation

Through a newly announced partnership with city officials, affected students can instead ride public transit for free.

"We are happy to announce that beginning on Monday these same students who attend a high school in the city of High Point or the city of Greensboro will be able to access public transportation for free," said Contreras.

Students must show their student ID cards, also called One Cards, to ride city buses for free. According to aninfo packet released by GCS, students will be considered absent if they do not come to school using public transportation or other means. Contreras encouraged affected families to practice using the city buses or to drive their children to school if they are able.

In addressing why the district has not chosen to move to remote schooling at this time, Contreras cited feedback from parents.

"What we heard loud and clear from parents, please keep schools open. It has just caused so much of a problem for students to be home. And it's caused social, emotional problems. It's caused learning loss problems. It's caused problems for our parents who work," she said.

Contreras emphasized her hope that the bus driver shortage will not be long-lasting.

"This is a temporary crisis, we're going to get through this. Hopefully, we'll get through it in the next couple of weeks, it may be slightly longer," said Contreras.

The Guilford County Schools' priorities are keeping schools open in-person and giving families advance notice of any major changes, said Contreras.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
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