In light of an ongoing bus driver shortage, the Bertie County Schools will consider an alternative plan to the hiring dilemma–requiring teacher assistants and perhaps other classified staffers to double as school bus drivers.
If the BOE decides to follow this course of action, current teacher assistants will receive a “grandfathered-in” status. This loophole means that current employees would not feel the impact of this decision if the Board adopts it. This change would go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year.
This added driving responsibility could become an essential function of their job if the BOE implements this after studying the pros and cons.
Dr. Otis L. Smallwood, the Superintendent of Schools, proposed the new policy due to an ongoing school bus driver shortage in the County. In addition to TAs, the solution might apply to other classified or non-certified staffers.
But the new policy is not without risks. For example, they discussed the consistency needed to enforce this policy. One question raised was what would happen if a classified staff member could not drive due to a medical condition or a moving violation.
The Text of the Newly Proposed School Bus Driver Policy
Below is the first draft of the suggested policy change, per the Bertie County Public Schools website:
7000 – Personnel
7435 – Classified staff/Bus Drivers
Classified Staff/Bus Drivers
To ensure the safe and efficient transportation of students to and from school, and to ensure
an adequate number of regular and substitute school bus drivers to meet the needs of Bertie
County Schools, the Board adopts the following policy.
Becoming licensed to drive a school bus is considered an essential function of all teacher
assistant positions (Could add classified here). All teacher assistants shall obtain and maintain a
license that makes them eligible to drive a school bus. All teacher assistants shall drive a school
bus as part of their regular duties when assigned such duties by the principal. All teacher
assistants must sign a bus driving agreement as a condition of new employment.
The superintendent may develop procedures to implement this policy, including procedures
under which other exceptions to this policy, if any, may be established.
Bus driving assignments shall be made by the superintendent or designee to best meet the
needs of Bertie County Schools. Nothing in this policy is intended to establish or create a right
to drive a school bus.
Legal References: Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. ; G.S.
115C-36, -47, -245, -276
Smallwood will formally write the policy and present it to the Bertie County Board of Education at their April regular meeting. If the Board adopts the measure next month, it could make up for the shortfall of applicants for the position.