MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said he's confident the district will fill the 15 remaining bus driver positions by the start of the school year. It's a huge change of pace compared to last year when the district had almost 70 vacancies.
"Our goal is to ensure timely pickup and delivery of all CMS students who ride a school bus," said Winston.
Adam Johnson, CMS director of transportation, said the district raised the starting pay for a bus driver to $15 an hour. He said it's the highest starting pay for a school bus driver in North Carolina.
"Certainly, the driver pay increase helped, but a lot of the initiatives this year to really build morale back, and make this a great place to work, and be proud of what we are doing," said Johnson.
Johnson believes that should translate to a smoother start to the new school year. Johnson also unveiled 30 brand-new propane-powered school buses.
"Locally, we put cameras on all of our school buses, so they will be monitored inside. Of course, two-way radios, GPS, so we have all the technology that is on the rest of the fleet," said Johnson.
The district didn't pay anything for the buses, because North Carolina got money from a clear air initiative. The propane should help lower emissions, keep the bus quiet and save the district thousands.
Tucker Perkins, with the Propane Education and Research Council, said it's also expected to hold up in a crash.
Drivers will start to see the buses out on the roads starting Monday, Aug. 19. That's when drivers will start practicing their routes. Students head back to school the following week.
This school year, CMS is also relaunching 'Gus the Bus'. A CMS teacher of 19 years, Mary Beth Kubinski, is taking over the program after it ended a few years ago. She'll be traveling to CMS elementary schools to teach children about bus safety.
"This is important because we want to prevent as many accidents as we can," said Kubinski.
Parents should expect their children's bus routes soon. CMS said it will have the same number of routes as last year.
CMS said it wants parents to download the 'Here Comes the Bus' phone app. It helps track their child's bus. During the 2018-2019 school year, the district had 60,000 app downloads.
Click here for more information on the 'Here Comes the Bus' app.
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