Grainger County Schools faces bus driver shortage due to COVID-19

A few weeks into the school year and Grainger County School System doesn’t have enough bus drivers to operate.
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 6:42 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 28, 2021 at 10:16 AM EDT
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RUTLEDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A few weeks into the school year and Grainger County School System doesn’t have enough bus drivers to operate.

With a shortage for drivers and substitute drivers, school got cancelled on Friday.

According to the Director of Grainger County Schools James Atkins, the shortage is due to COVID.

“For weeks, I have said that we may have to shut down by Labor due to either a shortage of bus drivers or a shortage of substitutes,” said Atkins. “This is something that all school systems are facing.”

Grainger County maintains 53 bus routes in the county. On Friday, 10 bus drivers were missing. Atkins stated there was not a scenario where the school system could get the students to school.

Atkins expressed concerns about COVID in the school system.

“COVID is much more prevalent in the schools than a few weeks ago,” said Atkins. “In fact, I have 27 more positive cases among students than two days ago.”

There are a total of 280 Grainger County students quarantined due to COVID. The numbers of active cases are increasing ‘exponentially’, Atkins said. He said the school system should look into some of their current policies in light of the prevalence of COVID within the school system.

Atkins said it was challenging for teachers to find a way to educate a classroom of students while also addressing the needs of those quarantined students.

A week ago, the school system had 27 unfilled substitute jobs.

“This means after all substitutes were scheduled, we still had 27 positions with nobody in that job.” said Atkins. “Of those 27 unfilled jobs, I had 12 at Joppa Elementary. To keep from shutting down the school system last week, I repurposed employees!”

Some moms are worried about the cancellations and the recent surge of COVID-19.

“If my kids get it, I mean it’s going to worry me to death,” said Jessica Daniel, a Grainger County Schools mom of 5.

Daniel and her husband work, so she took off Friday to be with her kids.

“Me having to miss work to be home with my kids that cuts us short on being able to pay all of our bills. If this doesn’t get resolved one of us is going to have to quit working,” said Daniel.

Stay at home mom, Shanna Neeley has fifth and sixth graders who have both been asked to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure.

Neeley said, “Kinda scary because some of the kids have already been quarantined and stuff over COVID and we was told COVID was almost done and over with out of schools.”

Event though her kids don’t have symptoms, Neeley got them tested and is awaiting their results. The three aren’t vaccinated, but exposure is changing Neeley’s mind.

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