MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — Monday morning in front of Salem Elementary School is where you’ll hear the sound of a new school year beginning.

“They are my kids,” said Shenita Wilkinson. “Once their parents let them walk out that door, they’re mine.”

The love Wilkinson has for her students is why she’s been driving a school bus for the last 21 years.

“I thought I was going to be in a setting (like) the classroom, and it ended up being on the bus,” she said.

Wilkinson knows what it’s like when there’s a shortage of drivers, but luckily that’s a problem she doesn’t have to worry about this school year.  

“We are thrilled to say right now we are running routes for every school,” said Trey Dukes. “All of our schools have full routes running.”

Dukes is the director of schools for Murfreesboro City Schools and said they are starting off this school year fully staffed with bus drivers.

“We’ve definitely noticed over the last few years there’s been a decrease in availability in bus drivers, and we’ve been planning for that,” he said.

Dukes said to address this issue, the district began planning and strategizing last fall. They changed bell times for some of their schools and increased parent responsibility zones.

“We began working to say what were the changes that we may need to implement for this next coming year so that we can ensure that every child that lived in a transportation zone had adequate and reliable transportation,” he said. “That reliable is really key.”

Dukes said some buses are also running double routes this year as well.

“A bus will go and pick up a group of students, take them to school, and then immediately turn back around and pick up another group of students for that same school,” he said.

While it’s only day one, Wilkinson is excited for a new school year filled with students that keep her coming back.

| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Murfreesboro and Rutherford County

“Soon as I open that door and see their smile and if they don’t have a smile, (I) make them smile,” she said. “I just love working with kids.”

Dukes said they did hire more drivers over the summer, and said many of their buses do have bus aids to help assist as well.

Despite being fully staffed, Dukes said they are still hiring drivers. If you are interested in applying, you can do so here.