RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Current and retired school bus drivers took their frustrations to the Chesterfield County School Board Tuesday, asking for changes to make transportation better for students.
“We don’t get a lot of money, $20,000 is not going to make a big difference,” explained one driver who has been working for CCPS for 11 years. “We drive for the kids, we love our kids.”
During public comment at Tuesday’s board meeting, one retir
ed and two current drivers spoke about the issues with late buses, confusion and their disappointment with the dismantling of Transportation Area 5, which had been previously designated for special needs students.
“Please put your heads together, put that safety back into Area 5,” said Drew Story who retired on Oct. 1, after 12 years with CCPS. “Those kids need their own office, those parents need their own people. They need to be dispatched from one central point, not four different areas.”
Interim Superintendent Donald Fairheart announced changes are in the the works.
“We have been provided information that Ms. Mensia-Joseph and Mr. Sloan will immediately begin their efforts to reestablish Area 5. Qe understand that has been an important point for you and others throughout the community, so our efforts will be focused on that," explained Fairheart.
The bus drivers at the meeting, seemed to echo what a current driver, who asked to remain anonymous, previously shared with NBC 12.
“Transportation is not always in the best interest of what the kids need,” the driver said. “It’s time to get back to the basics. It’s about taking the most precious cargo our parents have, their dreams, safely back and forth to school.”
Sonia Smith with the Chesterfield Education Association, sat in the front row, listening to the drivers speak candidly.
“I refer to them as our angels of the highway, they keep our babies safe,” Smith said. “I hear a cry for help. I hear people who love what they do trying to seek answers.”
Smith calls the most recent bus issues affecting drivers the most “egregious” that she can remember in recent years. Smith said the routing system needs to be reviewed and made more effective, and efforts need to be focused on recruiting more bus drivers.
“Something that could be a 10-15 minute ride turns into a 20-30 minute ride,” Smith said. “When you factor that in, and we don’t have enough driver, we have double backs, not as much as we did at the beginning of the school year, but we have some double ups. That has played into a really ugly scenario that I don’t think the Transportation Department was prepared for.”
Binford Sloan, the Director of Transportation, presented a transportation update during a school board work session Tuesday.
“Within the Department of Transportation, whomever it is that has direct contact, and direct supervision with our bus drivers, needs to do better,” said Smith.