Struggling school bus agency Dallas County Schools is short on drivers, and there are concerns about whether there will be enough drivers to get all of the kids to class.
By some estimates, DCS — which runs bus service in eight North Texas school districts — is hundreds of drivers short with just weeks until the start of school.
A DCS spokesperson initially told NBC 5 Investigates that it was 300 drivers short across all districts the agency serves. Our own calculations using driver lists we obtained show about 280 fewer drivers on staff than last year.
But, Tuesday evening, DCS said it went back and counted again, and it only needs 218 more drivers to be fully staffed this school year.
Current DCS drivers made their requests Tuesday for which routes they'll drive, and when that assignment process is complete DCS should have a better idea of the exact number of drivers it needs.
Whatever the final number, officials in some school districts where DCS provides transportation are concerned.
"DCS needs to meet its obligations to provide safe and efficient transportation to our students and to be ready when school starts in three weeks," said Dallas ISD School Board President Dan Micciche.
Dallas ISD has called a meeting for Thursday, where trustees will question DCS officials about whether they are ready for school.
DCS says it has 95 driver candidates waiting to take the test — and they have other contingency plans in place to ensure a smooth start to the year.
In a statement the agency also said it was working with the school districts it serves to come up with other staffing solutions.
“In addition, several of our school districts, including DISD have removed the restrictions on faculty driving buses. This will help tremendously as teachers and coaches are some of our best resources for recruitment”, the statement said.
DCS points out there is a nationwide shortage of drivers right now. Plus, DCS has a bigger hiring challenge because it could be shut down in the next year if Dallas County voters elect to close the troubled busing agency in the November election.
Of the school districts where DCS provides bus service, Irving, Lancaster and Richardson start school on Aug. 21; while Aledo, Carrollton-Farmers Branch, Dallas, DeSoto and Highland Park start school on Aug. 28.
NBC 5 Investigates will keep following the staffing issues over the next several weeks.