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The call for bus drivers in Monongalia County is out as classes begin

MORGANTIOWN, W.Va. — Classes are in session for Monongalia County Schools and that means safely transporting thousands of students every school day.

Monongalia County Schools Transportation Director Tony Harris said planning for the task began last year.

“Of the 11,000 students that are enrolled in schools here we transport about 9,500 of them everyday,” Harris said Tuesday on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.”

Like all other industries, Harris said finding and keeping qualified drivers is a continuing struggle. Harris said they can help people interested navigate the process of getting a CDL license and the proper training to transport students.

“A lot of people feel they don’t have what it takes to be a school bus driver because they think about the kids they’re transporting,” Harris said. “But, once they get in here they find out it’s a very rewarding job.”

Harris said they really have no substitute drivers, but a new class of drivers is expected to graduate in the coming weeks. Still, demand for professional drivers across the board adds another obstacle to fully staff the district fleet.

“New regulations from the federal DOT has made it a little bit harder for everybody to get CDL drivers with the training that’s required,” Harris said. “But, competing day-in, day-out with the trucking industry makes it hard for a school system to compete.”

Extracurricular activities will be difficult to schedule and staff until more qualified drivers are hired. The trips are often at different hours of the day and in some cases are much longer and require night travel. In fact, the start time of the University Hawks football game has been pushed to 8 p.m. Friday due to a lack of staff.

“We’ve had to work with the athletic directors and coaches to make arrangements for other avenues for kids to get to those sporting events,” Harris said.

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