Guilford County schools to resume school bus service for all starting Monday | Education

GREENSBORO — The shortage of bus drivers plaguing Guilford County public schools is showing signs of improvement, district officials say.

Now pupils at eight secondary schools who have lost their service – and who have been asked to use other means of transport – can rely on school buses to get them to class from Monday.

This news from district officials on Tuesday marked another sign that Guilford County, like the state and the country, is returning to some semblance of normalcy after the latest surge of COVID-19.

Grimsley High School students Dior Johnson, left, and Cameron Dozier board a bus at the J. Douglas Depot Transfer Center in Greensboro in January.

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It was a surge of new cases, along with a continued shortage of bus drivers, that prompted the district to take drastic action earlier this year.

District leaders responded by delaying middle and high school start times on Jan. 7 and then suspending regular school bus services for all eight high schools, located along transit lines in Greensboro and High Point.

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The cuts affected around 2,780 high school students, including those attending Page, Grimsley, Smith, Dudley and Andrews. Typically, about 39,000 students in the district ride school buses.

Students at all eight high schools were given the option of using city buses instead, with the district covering the cost. Even though school buses are resuming their routes, students can still use city buses for free until the end of the school year.

But since January, a lot has changed. Coronavirus infections – many of which result from the omicron variant – have dropped dramatically as more people have been vaccinated and public health measures, such as a nationwide mask mandate. county, entered into force.

The district said it was now able to staff enough buses thanks to improved absenteeism rates and the hiring of 16 new bus drivers.

In a brief interview with reporters on Tuesday, District Operations Manager Michelle Reed said daily bus driver absences are now in the single digits. It’s a stark contrast to the peak of the coronavirus crisis in January, when the district said 76 drivers were sick with COVID-19 in one day.

Reed said the district needs 54 more bus drivers to have its full staff, noting that schools in Guilford County and other districts across the country are still facing historic shortages.

In the meantime, bus riders at the eight affected high schools can get up-to-date district route information as well as the Here Comes the Bus app.

Students who used the district’s temporary school shuttles, which served limited stops at some large apartment complexes and housing projects, will also return to regular school bus service.

From district staff who stepped up to drive the shuttles to families and community volunteers who offered rides and carpools, many have been instrumental in transporting Greensboro and High Point students to and from the school in the last few months.

“We just appreciate the community support during this time of need,” Reed said.

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

Contact Jennifer Fernandez at 336-373-7064.

Melvin Z. Madore