BULLITT COUNTY, Ky. — Bullitt County Public Schools has about 13,000 students. More than half rely on the school bus each day.
Like other districts in the commonwealth, a staffing shortage is interrupting multiple bus routes.
Each BCPS bus driver has a different route, but David Phelps, BCPS director of transportation, said they all have the same goal.
“When it starts and stops, it's about the students,” said Phelps. “We want to see our children well educated.”
Struggling to keep enough drivers behind the wheel makes that mission challenging.
“Our people that we do have end up doing a little bit of extra work. Sometimes it means almost like a double run. Sometimes it just means holding more students and when you have more students that can bring more discipline issues, although we've been quite blessed,” said Phelps.
Sometimes, even that’s not enough.
“I just hate it. I lose sleep trying to think of other ways to make the training process faster to get more drivers in here, to get more efficient to get better to grow,” said Phelps.
Phelps started as a substitute bus driver for BBCPS in 2012. He moved up to a full-time driver and now also serves as the district’s director of transportation.
His primary focus is finding full-time and substitute drivers to make sure a bus makes it to every child.
“What really is hitting us nowadays is when we have people that are sick. When we're below zero, I guess we’ll say we end up with no driver on some routes,” said Phelps.
Phelp said a plan B is being implemented to transport as many kids as possible even when they are short drivers.
“Instead of going exactly to every single door or road, sometimes we have to have the parents bring the students to the end of the road where they could be possibly picked up by another bus that's passing by if that bus would have room,” says Phelps.
For Phelps it is about more than getting students to and from school.
“When a student has been troubled, maybe some things going on at home or even talking about things like sometimes like suicide or abuse or something, sometimes they will confide in their bus driver here,” says Phelps. “They're at school all day long and they've got trained counselors in there. They've got teachers in there, but it's the bus driver that the students choose to talk to.”
That’s why he is passionate about ensuring there is a driver to cover every route.
If you are interested in learning about becoming a school bus driver, click here.
BCPS’s transportation department offers CDL training.