‘There’s only so much flexibility’: Stanly County families frustrated by school bus service

STANLY COUNTY, N.C. — Hundreds of students in rural Stanly County depend on the school bus to make it to class each day, but this year, parents say the service hasn’t been dependable.

Without enough drivers to cover all the routes, many families are left to find their own way to get their kids to school.

Daniel Rathbun said the Stanly County school bus taking his third grade daughter to and from Stanfield Elementary was inconsistent, at best.

“We had to get up at 4 a.m., (go) on Facebook to find out if we were going to have a bus or not,” Rathbun told Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis.

Then, in November, the bus driver unexpectedly quit and the entire route was canceled.

Rathbun said he tried to juggle working in Charlotte with dropping and picking her up from school, but it ended up costing him the job. Now, he works part time and is paying $500 a month for care before and after school for his young daughter.

“We live paycheck to paycheck, to be honest,” he said.

It’s a burden he says is too much, but necessary, since the district didn’t offer any solutions or resources once the bus service was abruptly canceled.

“It’s cost so much, and I know it’s not just my family, we might be in a better situation than people out here,” he said.

The Rathbun family isn’t alone. A Facebook page for the the school district’s transportation department shows a different route canceled nearly every day due to missing drivers.

Many parents are left to make last-minute changes to get their kids to class.

“There’s only so much flexibility we can offer when we are losing our income,” Rathbun said.

In an email, a Stanly County Schools spokesperson said they have drivers running double routes to help cover the elementary school. The district said it has 60 bus driver positions to service the county and it is currently down 13 drivers.

“We understand this is frustrating and causes additional impact and stress on families,” the district spokesperson said. “SCS is open to working to find solutions to this complex issue.”

Full statement from Stanly County Schools:

“SCS is experiencing transportation impacts district-wide. Currently, there are 13 bus driver vacancies. SCS will continue to actively recruit by hosting a Job Fair on January 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Please visit www.stanlycountyschools.org to view all vacancies.

“Since November, the Stanfield routes have been covered by 2 other buses running double routes to provide coverage. However, this will cause delays in pickup and drop-off times. These buses are being operated by school-based staff who have bus licenses from another school.

“We understand this is frustrating and causes additional impact and stress on families. SCS is open to working to find solutions to this complex issue.”

(WATCH BELOW: Program lets young truck drivers steer toward future, helps driver shortage)