LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — School districts across the country are all facing the challenge of finding qualified people to drive school buses and the issue is also being felt in Arkansas.
The start of most students' day begins on the school bus.
"We take pride in saying we are the first and the last people that our children see on a daily basis," Scot Tyler, North Little Rock School District's (NLRSD) Transportation Director, said.
But, they are having a tough time finding drivers.
"With the resurgence of COVID, people are not comfortable being on buses right now," Tyler said.
He said around this time last year, the district was only transporting about 500 students a day.
Now, in just the first week of school, at least 1,600 students are back in the passenger seats.
"We have seen an influx of children coming back from virtual to return to face-to-face and it has presented a new challenge for us," Tyler said.
With more students opting to attend school in-person this year, most of the bus routes have been adjusted and combined with others.
Charles Anderson with the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) said they are facing a similar issue.
"We have some drivers that take a route, some people that maybe do an extra route or a double route," Anderson said.
He oversees training, but even he has picked up bus routes to help out.
He said he is looking to hire about 30 qualified drivers to cover every corner of Pulaski County.
"We have three locations. We have a west location, a northwest location and a south location. If we can get 10 extra drivers for those locations, that would be super wonderful," he said.
As they continue to search for qualified drivers, Anderson said parents shouldn't be worried as the school will continue to make adjustments to ensure that students get back and forth from school without any delays.
"This is our first week and as the weeks continue to go on, we just ask them to be patient with us," Anderson said.
NLRSD said they have their own training program that takes about three weeks to complete.
This program is designed to help prospective drivers get their license and certifications.
PCSSD is discussing possible incentives for new drivers.