HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - From a pay increase to job recruitment fairs, Horry County Schools has gone to great lengths to keep and hire on more school bus drivers.
At end of the last school year, Horry County Schools needed nearly 40 more bus drivers. The district has worked all summer long to fill those vacancies and their efforts have paid off.
Jim Wright, the district's director of transportation, said they are now down to only four vacancies and this is the most bus drivers he's ever had leading into the first day of school.
"It feels great, it feels great. I hope it stays this way," said Wright.
For Wright, it's been a long uphill battle dealing with the shortage. He said a $1 pay increase provided by the school board allowed them to hire new drivers and retain veteran employees as well.
"We usually lose a lot of drivers. I think because we increased the pay for drivers, it gave us better retention during the summer, so I think that was the key," said Wright.
Drivers will earn between $13 and $17.40 per hour, depending on the number of years they've been driving.
For school bus drivers like Dinah Edmondson, who has been driving students to school for 19 years, the boost in pay is greatly appreciated.
"It's really nice to get a pat on the back," said Edmondson.
This year's bus fleet includes 380 full-time bus drivers, 16 assigned relief drivers and six substitute drivers for the school district.
"It's wonderful to be fully staffed. I can't say enough about having everyone show up and be on time and do their job. It's a burden when someone calls out," said Edmondson.
From early-morning wake-up calls to working split shift days, Wright said he truly appreciates anyone who is willing to get behind the wheel of a bus to help students get to and from school.
"What a special person that takes to be a bus driver and we have some fantastic bus drivers out there who truly care about your kids," said Wright.
Those kids are Edmondson's passion and the reason behind nearly two decades of driving kids of all ages to and from school.
"We have a big part in getting these children educated because we must get them to school," said Edmondson.
Bus drivers will officially start their practice rounds next week and Wright hopes to have the final four vacancies filled by the first day of school.