IRONDALE, Ala. (WIAT) — Jefferson County Schools are getting creative to make sure all bus routes are covered this year – but they still have plenty of positions to fill.

From the early wake-up call until the end-of-the-day dismissal, Mark Pelfrey gets his bus full of kids to and from Grantswood Community School safely.

“There’s a lot that goes on – on a school bus,” Pelfrey said.

He was hired on as a mechanic in 2006, bu part of his duties include driving the big yellow bus.

“This year it’s been every day,” Pelfrey said. “Last year it was pretty much every day.”

Like many schools, the district needs drivers. Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin has asked the mechanics to lend a hand.

“We need some good drivers. Good, dependable folks to come and take these positions,” Pelfrey said. “There’s some good jobs out here if somebody wanted to do it.”

Gonsoulin said the district estimates a need, now one month into the school year, of somewhere between 20 and 30 more drivers. He’s grateful for the work the mechanics have done to step up and help.

“They’re making an intentional sacrifice to do the work that they’re already deemed to do and hired to do plus these extra duties,” Gonsoulin said. “One of the things I’m very proud of is the fact that we have all of our bus routes covered. Now, covered and filling all of our vacancies – that’s two different things.”

Until the vacancies can be filled, mechanics like Pelfrey will continue to lend a helping hand behind the wheel.

“The more you’re with them the more it’s like they become your kids,” Pelfrey said. “Some want to come in and maybe want to give you a hug – some of the little ones – like I’m their granddaddy or something so it’s that kind of role sometimes.”

Pelfrey helps to train drivers to be able to operate buses in the district. He just signed off Thursday on two more people who will start their testing next week by the state.

“The state will test them on what I taught them to make sure that they control the bus right and know all of the procedures of how to do a student load and unload and proper way to do a railroad crossing and driving in general,” Pelfrey said.

If you have a calling to help drive school buses, you’re encouraged to reach out online or by phone at 205-379-2000.