More than just bus drivers

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2020

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By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

The Shelby County Board of Education is currently in need of bus drivers and substitute bus drivers to keep school transportation running smoothly during uncertain times. During the month of October, the Bus Shop in Columbiana will be taking on candidates that are interested in becoming school bus drivers throughout the Shelby County School system.

Those interested need to acquire a Class B CDL license by Oct. 1 and clear a background check in order to begin training in early October. They will receive class room instruction at the county level as well as have opportunities to learn to pre-trip and drive school busses for the first part of the course, and then finish out their driving education with a three day class with a state instructor before becoming signed off as officially eligible to be hired as school bus drivers.

We checked in with drivers that took the class a year ago to find out how becoming bus drivers have changed their lives.

Jennifer Grimes, driver at Helena Elementary, shared her story with us. “This is not a job for me. It is a calling,” she told us. After having lost her oldest son a year before, Grimes was looking for a way to serve her community in order to deal with her grief. She noticed in the mornings that her younger son’s bus came through her neighborhood twice. When she asked why, she learned that the schools were in need of new drivers. “I’d been asking God to lead me to serve others because that is all that brings any form of comfort,” she said. “ I decided I would go to bus training.” She went on to say, I can see both of my sons in so many little ways in my riders faces each day. Plus this calling allows me to still be home with my youngest child.”

Sandy Tipton, who now drives for Oak Mountain Schools, told us, “The best part for me is getting to know more of the kiddos in my community. It’s so fun to see them at school events and watch them get excited to see me.” She also told us, “I hadn’t’ worked in 22 years and was surprised that it was not a hard adjustment for me.” Tipton also shared that the benefits of becoming a full-time driver brought her family insurance savings and extra income without taking time away from her family when they needed her.

Another bus driver told us that they had no idea how attached they’d become to their kids. “When the school shut down happened, I worried about many of my kids. As drivers, we had the opportunity to help pass out school lunches and that was a blessing. I saw many of my kids and which put my mind at ease knowing they were getting what they needed and that our community of drivers and educators were going to make sure our kids weren’t forgotten. It’s been a remarkable view into how a community truly works, and I’m better for it.”

To find out more about becoming a Shelby County School Bus Driver, call the county Bus Shop at 205-682-7130.