Aundres Perkins, a career specialist for Florence (S.C.) 1 Schools, is one of six district...

Aundres Perkins, a career specialist for Florence (S.C.) 1 Schools, is one of six district employees who has stepped up to drive a school bus amid the district's ongoing driver shortage.

Photo courtesy Florence (S.C.) 1 Schools

When Florence 1 Schools returned to in-person instruction in January, six district employees clocked in earlier than normal, beginning their runs as school bus drivers.

In November, the school district gave employees the option of running bus routes on top of their current position to help combat the district’s ongoing driver shortage, according to a news release from Florence 1 Schools. Employees who took the district up on that offer reportedly received a $2,000 new driver sign-on bonus as well as a daily salary supplement.

These six employees, according to the district, either already had their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) or completed the necessary training in order to get their CDL and endorsements to work as a school bus driver. Before their first run, the new drivers met with the interim Transportation Director Mitchell Washington and did dry runs on their routes.

“I am excited to have several of Florence 1's teachers and staff members helping out in the transportation department,” Washington said in the release. “Utilizing them has been extremely helpful, especially during this difficult time. They have alleviated in areas where bus drivers have been doubling and tripling routes. This has also helped us in areas where we have experienced overloading due to the state’s recommended capacity limits.”

Along with these employees, Florence 1 Schools Chief Personnel Officer Nathaniel C. Marshall added that two more staff members will begin driving this week.

Southside Middle School English teacher Robin Voss said that she got her CDL a few years ago when a district principal needed someone to drive students to athletic events.

“I always like learning new things, so I volunteered,” Voss said in the news release. “It was a week of classwork and then a test. You have to pass four tests at the DMV, log several hours of driving with a mentor, and then yet another test, including a 68-point inspection on the bus. Oddly, I can't back a trailer, but I can parallel park a bus.”

Voss added that as a former high school and college athlete herself, driving student athletes sounded like a great way to form connections with students outside of the classroom.

Aundres Perkins, a career specialist for Florence 1 Schools, echoed similar sentiments in the release.

“I enjoy interacting with [Florence 1 Schools] students so I’m excited for the opportunity to get to meet kids that might not be what I’m used to working with, which is high school,” Perkins said. “Any opportunity to positively impact our kids — through counseling, coaching, or driving their bus — is a great opportunity for me. Plus, they keep me young.”