DALLAS — A struggling school bus agency has significantly cut down its driver shortage and successfully transported students as back-to-school season kicked off here last week, and is now assisting in local hurricane evacuation efforts.
Dallas County Schools (DCS) announced that the first day of school for client districts on Aug. 21 was smooth and relatively uneventful, a marked change from recent years, according to a news release from the agency. DCS provides student transportation services to more than 76,000 students in 13 school districts in Dallas County.
“We contacted each of the districts to make sure we met their expectations and heard an overwhelming response of positive comments from all of our clients,” said Leatha Mullins, the interim superintendent for DCS. “This has been the most successful start of school in recent years.”
DCS has continued to add qualified drivers, bringing the number of drivers needed from 94 as of last week to 28 as of Monday, a spokesperson for DCS told School Bus Fleet. Officials reported that drivers are completing the certification and safety processes daily.
Mullins added that DCS can cover remaining routes with administrative staff, and that routes can be split among drivers until DCS is at full capacity.
“Driver shortages are a national issue, but this year we are beating the trend,” Mullins said. “I still want to encourage qualified applicants to apply, because this job does pay well and has competitive benefits.”
Dallas Independent School District (ISD) and Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District (ISD) began classes on Monday. Dallas ISD and DCS have been working together to ensure a smooth first day of school, NBC DFW reports.
Meanwhile, DCS assisted in local hurricane emergency response efforts on Monday evening, sending up to four activity buses to transport evacuees being flown into Love Field to a shelter in Irving, according to a news release from DCS. For operational periods between route times, DCS planned to add school buses as needed.
“I deeply appreciate our partners at DCS, especially since this is happening on the first day of school," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. "We regularly conduct drills with their professional staff and drivers to prepare for just this type of emergency."
DCS staff quickly rounded up buses and drivers to assist in the effort.
“We have an amazing staff who rallied to help out Houston families during this devastating natural disaster,” Mullins added. “We are here to do whatever we can to ease their burden during this time.”
The school bus agency has faced some challenges recently, including problems with a stop-arm program that spurred lawsuits against the cities of Dallas and Carrollton, financial difficulties, and the possibility of being shut down. As SBF previously reported, a Texas Senate committee approved a bill in April, SB 1122, that could do just that. The proposed shutdown would be effective Sept. 1, 2018. In November, voters will decide whether to dissolve the agency, according to CBS 11 News.