Saluda County Schools Superintendent gets behind the wheel to address bus driver shortage
SALUDA COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - As districts across the Midlands and the state are experiencing bus driver shortages, some districts are taking different tactics to fill the void.
Richland School District 2 recently held a bus driver career fair, and in Saluda County Schools its superintendent is taking matters into his own hands.
In addition to his other duties, Dr. Harvey Livingston, Saluda County Schools Superintendent, drives a 75-mile elementary school bus route each day.
The district is currently down two of its twenty drivers. One of Saluda County School’s bus drivers is out with a long-term medical injury, and they’ve had some COVID-19 outbreaks that have added to the problem.
Livingston says to honor the district’s “One Saluda” motto, it was important for him to serve this dual role.
“Our kids come first here in Saluda,” he said. “Truly I think about we have great parents. And our parents are willing sometimes to come to pick our kids up, but that’s a hardship on parents. So I just felt as a parent myself that it was my responsibility to make sure to fill that void. I mean I’ve been here in Saluda for over 25 years, this is home. This is family. And when you’re shorthanded, the family’s gotta step up to the plate.”
Livingston first obtained his Commercial Driver’s License for 28 years and has been consistently driving routes for Saluda students for the better part of two years.
This summer, when it was clear that there would still be a shortage for the 2021 school year, he had discussions with district staff about the path forward. Livingston said taking on the elementary route for 50 students each afternoon was a no-brainer.
Others in the district are stepping up, too.
“I also have my high school principal who runs a bus route when we’re shorthanded, my director of administration runs a bus route when we’re shorthanded,” he said. “I’ve actually got an assistant principal and a cafeteria manager that are going through the process to get their CDLs. So hopefully by some way I’m kind of leading by example and other people are wanting to help out as well.”
Livingston’s day typically starts around 8 a.m. when he checks in on a few of the district’s five schools. After making calls and handling district business, he then boards the bus at around 2 p.m. and drives the students home. After the route is through, he’s often working on paperwork until 7 p.m.
In addition to the afternoon route, Livingston has also driven a morning route about a dozen times this year. Though it makes for long days, he said his students make the work rewarding.
As long as there is a shortage, which is expected to last for the foreseeable future, Livingston said he will be behind the wheel. Once the district has a full staff of bus drivers, he will step back.
“But I promise you, I never want to forget what our bus drivers do every day. So when that point comes and I’m not driving every day, I still plan on filling in at least once or twice a week. I think it’s important just for me to be out there with them.”
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