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Colleton has no double runs for first time nearly a decade

Colleton County parents and children are starting this school year with a big difference, compared to years past: the buses are running on single routes.
For the first time in more than seven years, the Colleton County School District is not doing double runs on its buses for morning or afternoon routes.
“We’ve worked hard to be here,” said Gary Bradley, transportation director for the Colleton County School District. Bradley started as the district’s transportation director about two years ago. At that time, he inherited nearly a dozen double runs each day, marking the district with constant problems with children being late to school or not getting home until after 5 p.m.
When he started as a director, the district also had a deficit of 21 bus drivers.
Now, as of Monday, the local school district is completely staffed and is not running on any shortages.
“For the first time, we have route covered,” he said, on Monday. “We continue to train our staff and our drivers, but I’m happy to say we are good.”
Bradley credits the district’s “great start to the year” with three key points. Among these is the Colleton County School Board’s approval last year of a new incentive plan for the district’s school bus drivers. That plan starts each new school bus driver at a base pay of $13.50 per hour, with no experience. The hourly rate caps at $18.50 per hour, with up to 24 years of experience. As part of the new incentive package for school bus drivers, the district also pledges at least 30 hours of work per week to all drivers, making each bus driver eligible for full benefits.
“Our drivers can do activity runs, or mid-day runs, or have other activities they can do to make them reach that schedule of 30 hours,” he said.
Bradley says other changes that have positively impacted the district’s transportation department includes in-hour training and ongoing recruit fairs for new drivers.
“These two things, the incentive plan, and the ongoing training and recruitment efforts have made us more competitive with the districts around us,” he said. “And we continue to train. There is a constant funnel that we have to feed, to make sure we are not short drivers.”
According to Bradley, about 48-percent of all students in the entire district use public school bus transportation. In total, the Colleton County School District will have approximately 65 bus drivers by the years-end: this includes preparing for the addition of a new special-needs bus and route.
As a part of the transportation department’s ongoing efforts, Bradley says he and the department will also continue to make sure all students who ride school buses are not on them for longer than 90 minutes. The 90-minute-ride is a state requirement; however, Colleton County is exempt from this because of its size and because it only has one high school. “We might be exempt, but we are still fighting to stay within that boundary, for the students’ sakes,” he said.
In addition to the incentive pans and training, Bradley also says the new solo routes are because of the district changing its bell schedules.
“We are also using new software, for the first time,” he said. When Bradley first took his role at the transportation department, everything was done manually, he said. Now, the entire department runs on software that is tied to each school, and each students’ transportation requests.
“A parent can sign their child up to ride a bus, the school takes it and sends it to us, we implement that information, and the school can give the parent the route information and time of pick-up,” he said. “It’s a game-changer.”

Heather Walters (1670 Posts)