School System Implements Stricter Screening Process for Bus Drivers

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The Rockingham County Schools Transportation Department is making some changes when it comes to school buses, but these changes involve the person behind the wheel.

Jumping off the bus in the afternoon or headed to school early in the morning, Rockingham County parent Alex Fitzgerald says he puts his life in the bus driver's hands each school day.

"They're safe, making sure that whoever's driving the bus is in control of what's going on, making sure the kids aren't getting too rowdy," says Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald says he heard of an incident this past fall where a substitute driver for the county drove a bus full of children while under the influence of alcohol.

"It was a little bothersome, but I like to think that the county's pretty much in control and that that was sort of a fluke incident," says Fitzgerald.

Transportation Director Doug Alderfer says they're always looking to improve safety, but that incident did raise concerns.

He says, "Any kind of factor like that that takes place in a school division makes us sit back and say, 'Are we doing everything we possibly can?'"

This year, all current drivers, full-time, coaches and substitutes, were required to attend an extensive two hour in-service training.

"The topic of that would be safety, some of it is professionalism, running an efficient transportation department. We covered a gamut of topics during those meetings," says Alderfer.

Alderfer says getting a job as a bus driver is getting even harder, but it's not because of the basic requirements.

"It's more our attitude and the perception that we're taking as we are looking at the people who apply for those jobs," says Alderfer.

The school's transportation department says it's actually been harder to find drivers this year because of the higher standards and more thorough screening process.