Chesterfield Schools asks for parents to help drive kids to school | Other school divisions also in need of bus drivers

County dealing with bus driver shortage
Published: Aug. 15, 2021 at 9:58 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 3:42 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) is calling on parents to help drive their children to school as the school system deals with a shortage of bus drivers.

In a video posted on the school system’s Facebook page Sunday, CCPS is about 100 drivers short of its goal, which means a lot of routes could potentially go uncovered.

“We need your help,” said Superintendent Merv Daugherty.

Help with driving students to school

Superintendent Merv Daugherty addresses the bus driver shortage and asks families to help out by driving their students to school. #oneCCPS

Posted by Chesterfield County Public Schools on Sunday, August 15, 2021

That request for help comes days after Chesterfield Schools added two electric buses to its fleet.

However, who will be behind the wheel of these new buses, and hundreds of old buses, is unknown.

“We have a bus driver shortage,” Daugherty said. “There’s no doubt about it, everyone in this country is working to find enough employees to fill positions, and we’re short about 100 drivers.”

“Why can’t you fix whatever that issue is?” asked Laura Caterino, a Chesterfield parent. “Is it a monetary thing, a safety issue, is it how they’re being treated?”

Those are just a few questions Caterino has. The parent of three would have to drop off her kids at two different schools with different start times; something she said is not feasible for working families.

“They need the bus in order to take their children to school,” Caterino said. “That’s the transportation that was offered because these parents have to go to work.”

Other parents shared similar comments on social media.

“This driver shortage has been going on for years!” said one commenter. “It’s becoming very disheartening and inconvenient for parents to drive their kids to school.”

Many parents were also concerned about wait times for pick up and drop off.

“It’s either you go early and have to wait an hour, or you get in line and still wait an hour,” Caterino said. “That’s still the same thing with morning or afternoon.”

This is not the first time Chesterfield has had a significant bus driver shortage. In 2019, more than 50 drivers were needed, which left some children waiting for hours at the bus stop or being stranded for a period of time.

“Something has to change. We are going to end up having no drivers; kids are scared to get on buses,” said one mom who did not want to be identified.

Bus driver shortages are not unique to Chesterfield.

Hanover County Public Schools, Henrico County Public Schools and Richmond Public Schools are also dealing with shortages.

Hanover currently has 32 vacancies out of its 221 contracted positions.

“We currently have five candidates in training, which would reduce our vacancies to 27 upon successful completion of training,” said Hanover Schools spokesman Chris Whitley.

Hanover is actively interviewing more applicants this week as well. Those interested can apply here.

Henrico Schools has 115 vacancies; at least seven candidates are undergoing training. However, in a parent survey that the school system sent last month, roughly 6,000 students were removed from bus rosters after parents said they would drive them to school themselves.

On Tuesday, Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Henrico Schools will host a job fair with positions available in the transportation department.

“Candidates for full-time and substitute bus drivers must: be at least 21 years old; have a valid Virginia driver’s license; be able to obtain a CDL Class B instructional permit or hold a CDL Class B license with endorsements in P (Transporting Passengers)/S (School Bus) and airbrakes; pass a physical and drug test and have no felony convictions,” the school system said.

The job fair will take place in the community room at the Henrico Schools Central Office (3820 Nine Mile Road). To apply in advance, click here.

Vacancies for Richmond Schools were not immediately available, however, the school system was working to gather data.

Bus driver shortages also go beyond the state of Virginia. Many school systems nationwide reporting the same issue.

But still, parents said something needs to change.

“Asking parents to be the solution to this problem really isn’t the solution,” Caterino said.

Meanwhile, there is also concern about the pickup and drop-off lines impacting traffic on main roads and neighborhoods near schools if so many parents drive their own kids.

A CCPS spokesman said they are currently working on a plan to make sure those impacts are reduced but released no further information.

Chesterfield School District has posted about the need for bus drivers for more than 30 days. Drivers can make $17-$25 an hour, and no previous experience is needed.

For more information on becoming a CCPS bus driver, click here.

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