Many school districts across the state are trying to find ways to fill bus driver vacancies. It's a problem that isn't new to school systems, but the pandemic is making it even harder.

Bus drivers have extra responsibilities these days. There's additional sanitizing and making sure that students are wearing facemasks and following other safety protocols.

Over the past week, Wake County Schools reported around 100 bus driver vacancies. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools say it's short more than 60. And Guilford County has around 40 openings. Rural school districts are also struggling to fill these positions.

This is contributing to late dropoff and pickup times for kids and stretching bus drivers and school systems thin.

Education leaders say concerns over COVID-19 are contributing to the shortage. Some districts are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and offering bonuses to attract more workers.

Guilford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras is concerned that might not be enough.

“Even when we do it now we see that McDonald's is offering $20 an hour and in the state you have Target and Walmart offering tuition reimbursement and it is very difficult to compete with that,” she says.

Contreras is urging patience as bus drivers and school districts work through the challenges. She hopes the issue sparks more conversation about increasing salaries for classified staff among local and state lawmakers.

Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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