KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The transportation director for Knox County Schools, Ryan Dillingham, said he has a tough job coordinating routes and making sure students can get to school and home.
"Bus drivers are getting harder and harder to find," Dillingham said. "We're seeing that in Knox County as well."
He said the district is committed to fixing that problem so students can get to and from school on time. Around a tenth of the district's 346 routes had changes or delays on the first day of school, according to the August 8 transportation report.
"We gave our bus contractors a significant raise that went into effect July 1, so our hope is that will help," Dillingham said. "We offer [the required training/testing] not only free to bus contractors, but we actually give them a stipend to pass along to their drivers."
Dillingham said they brought in 56 bus drivers through that program last year, although 88 left for various reasons including retirement and moving out of town. He said the entire process to bring in new drivers takes about six weeks.
In the meantime, they're working to cover every route to the best of their ability.
The transportation dashboard showed East Knox Elementary students on Bus 124 arrived at school around 90 minutes later than normal. That same bus dropped Holston Middle School students off about an hour late Monday afternoon.
The dashboard showed Hardin Valley Academy students on Bus 135 were between 45 and 60 minutes late.
"For our families, a disruption is a disruption," Dillingham said. "With the bus being late, the cause is secondary to the fact that it happened."
He said they'll continue to recruit more bus drivers to help keep buses on schedule. Dillingham also said families affected have been notified of any route changes.
"It is a difficult job and one that we don't have as many people as I would like right now," he said. "Every student is going to be delivered to school before school starts. In the afternoon, we do have some delays. We'll have some students that are going to have to wait on a bus to come back to pick them up after the bell has rung."