West Alabama school district’s school bus driver shortage beginning to affect neighborhoods

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 5:21 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s a problem in many places, but there aren’t enough bus drivers for at least three areas in Tuscaloosa County.

Thousands of children need the bus to get to school in Tuscaloosa County and school leaders are doing everything they can to get folks hired.

The Remington subdivision across from Hillcrest High School is one of three areas being affected. Tuscaloosa County school district leaders say when you combine all three neighborhoods, you come up with around 5,000 children who depend on the school bus to get to school and back home.

For Craig Henson, it is an agonizing headache and one that never seems to go away.

“It’s one we can’t handle quickly and can’t fix quickly and I think that’s where the frustration comes,” said Henson.

Henson is the director of transportation for Tuscaloosa County schools. He has five openings: four for bus drivers and another for a bus aid. They are openings that cropped up at the start of the new school year.

For Henson it’s a never-ending cycle of looking high and low for drivers.

“When you’re short like that, sometimes things can suffer,” said Henson.

In this case, three neighborhoods have been affected. “The Hillcrest area south of town, the Vance area and the Lakeview area,” Henson added.

The good thing is Henson says the school district is lucky enough to have pinch hitters step in and take over driving duties for now. “Thankfully, we have some retired drivers that can drive for us and drive pretty much everyday,” he said.

A shortage of school bus drivers is nothing new but the search for them gets old. Still, Henson understands that one, “It’s not for everybody,” he said.

And secondly, life often happens for those who do sign up. “Sudden family change or sudden family dynamic changes,” said Henson.

And change is what Craig Henson is used to - the search for more drivers begins with another training period starting September 19. Starting pay? $15,000 a year with no experience. The eternal optimist refuses to give up.

“All things work together for good,” he said.

Craig Henson says the training ends on November first and added the starting pay could actually increase if the applicant has experience.

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