Parents alarmed after students dropped off at wrong stop amid bus driver shortage

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — More than 20,000 students ride school buses in Union County.

But parents tell Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis a shortage of bus drivers is causing problems and raising concerns about safety for many families.

Parents said inconsistent routes and substitute drivers mean students have been put on the wrong bus or dropped off at unauthorized stops. Now, some parents are opting to pull their children off their routes.

“It’s terrifying,” one parent told Curtis. “It’s terrifying to have kids, to not know where your child is.”

Channel 9 is not identifying who the mom is to protect her child’s privacy. She said the bus driver shortage in Union County has led to routes getting swapped without notice, leaving parents waiting at one stop while their children were dropped off at another.

“The subs don’t know who the kids are, the routes aren’t being followed, the bus stops aren’t being checked when the kids get off -- it creates such dangerous situations,” she said.

She says parents are getting texts almost daily saying the bus is running 30 minutes late.

Transportation staff say many drivers are doing double routes to cover the shortage. At a meeting Wednesday morning, staff explained they are short 19 drivers for the current 213 routes. They can also have as many as 30 driver absences a day.

“The lack of communication between parents and the Department of Transportation just creates chaos for no reason,” the mom told Channel 9.

Staff showed photos of a white board that demonstrate how they adjust routes.

On the first day of school, the district started 20 drivers short. Curtis asked Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan what could be done to fill the gaps. Since then, they increased driver pay to $17.29 per hour and added a $50 a week attendance incentive. But they’re still struggling to recruit.

“We are competing with full-time positions,” transportation staff said. “It’s very difficult to do that when you have folks that have to support a family and can’t with the hours we provide.”

Transportation staff said they are meeting with bus drivers on Friday to get feedback. They’re also having a hiring fair next week.

At this time, the district says it’s not considering canceling any routes.

(WATCH BELOW: CMS leaders to discuss ‘Express Stops’ program that would reduce bus ride times)