COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - "I think if we work with the administration, with the transportation department, and the board, we can rectify this problem," Kia Chambers said.
The problem weighing on Chambers, chairperson of the Muscogee County School Board, and other board members' minds - recent confusion and delays for district students taking the bus to school every morning and afternoon since the start of the 2019 school year.
It's a factor that's contributing to the confusion: the shortage of bus drivers in Muscogee County; an issue, Chambers said, it not unique to Columbus.
"It's not just a [school district] problem," Chambers said. "It's been a problem nationwide."
During Monday's work session agenda, the board set time aside to discuss ways to recruit, hire, and keep more bus drivers.
District 2 representative John Thomas' co-proposal, drafted with District 8's Frank Myers, suggests raising bus drivers' base pay to $17 an hour, on top of including incentives like a six-month bonus and a yearly dollar increase.
Looking at the offers on the district's Careers website as of Sept. 10, MCSD offers $8/hr to those in training and a starting pay of $14.66/hr to a qualified driver.
Countering Thomas' proposal, Chambers and other board members said they want to look closely at how these increases will affect the district's finances.
"We have to consider the feasibility of it," she said.
"Do we have the manpower to carry out that particular plan? How does transferring those funds affect other departments and other people in the district?"
Also during the session, MCSD Transportation Director Herbert Hill told the board his department still needs 17 more bus drivers but added that more than a dozen candidates are either training to get their 'commercial drivers license,' or CDL, or taking bus driving classes before going out on a set route.