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Driver turnover not a problem

By Trina Trice

The Transportation Department is moving right along with its daily operations, despite a high turnover of bus drivers, said Michael Jennings, director of transportation.

Jennings gave a report at a Wednesday night Transportation-Facilities-Purchasing meeting for members of the Clayton County Board of Education and school administrators.

Ericka Davis was the only board member in attendance.

For the first day of school 216 regular education drivers were on hand and 344 buses were used.

The Transportation Department was short 10 bus drivers, Jennings said, so substitute drivers were called in to take up the slack.

"Our department has lost 27 staff members since the last day of school," Jennings said. "We have a 20 to 25 percent attrition rate."

While recruiting bus drivers, Jennings said that some applicants use the department to obtain a free commercial driver's license.

Potential drivers must successfully pass an extensive criminal background check and go through three weeks of training.

Following the training, drivers must obtain a commercial driver's license that certifies their ability to operate a bus. The school system pays for the training and license, although trainees don't get paid until they become licensed drivers.

Last year the department lost 13 drivers before the start of the school year due to the drivers' inability to pass their physical exams, Jennings said.

"This year we conducted the physicals onsite," he said. "We were able to monitor the completion of their physicals more closely."

Everyone checked out this year, Jennings said.

As for bus operations, drivers now have access to information on students with special health needs, said Ronnie Blake, assistant superintendent of auxiliary services.

At the beginning of the school year, parents fill out green cards that contain information about a student's health problems.

"This is the first time we've offered it to the bus drivers," Blake said. "We feel like this is a positive step to (ensure) the health of students throughout the year."

Not only does the green card point out a student's health problem, said Dr. William Chavis, interim superintendent, but it also tells school administrators and bus drivers what to do to help the child and who to call.

In other business, Clayton County residents interested in knowing what happens to school equipment that is no longer in use can now visit the school system's Web site to find out where that equipment could be available for purchase.