Chesapeake parents furious about school bus driver shortage

Parents say the issue has been ongoing since the school year started.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WVEC) -- Chesapeake parents say school buses are showing up late and sometimes not showing up at all. They say students are not only getting to school late, they're missing valuable class time.

Victoria Nelson has two grandchildren in the Chesapeake Public School system. One goes to Oscar Smith High School, and the other goes to Oscar Smith Middle School. Both of them ride the school bus.

"Ever since the beginning of the school year, the buses are late, not just a few minutes late, extremely late --over half an hour late," she said.

She says this happens at least three times a week.

"Sometimes they do a no show-- they don't even come at all."

When she tries calling the school division's transportation office, no one is helpful.

"A couple of times they say a bus isn't going to be able to come, where they're not even sending the bus out. You know, 'you'll have to get your children to school the best way you can.' Well my thing is, well then you should've picked up the phone to tell us parents that," she said.

Since the beginning of the school year, Victoria has been teaming up with another neighbor to drive the kids to school themselves.

"As neighbors and friends we've just been pitching in. We take the middle school first because they're the ones that have to get to school before the high school kids. Then we take the high school kids," she said.

The school division currently has about 20 bus driver vacancies to fill. In the meantime, drivers have been doubling up on routes.

"Like last week, one bus-- this was her third route back to pick up the middle school kids, and it was the bus driver's second time out to pick up high school children," Nelson said.

School officials are also placing some of the blame on state funding cuts. But regardless of the situation, Victoria says something has to be done.

"It's unfair to the children, it's unfair to the teachers and the bus drivers. I understand everybody's side, but Chesapeake-- they have to do something, because it's unacceptable!"

Drivers are now required to park their buses at a centralized location, which means they can't park their buses at home anymore. In September some drivers went before the School Board, saying this new parking model is one of the reasons why buses are showing up late. 13News Now asked the school division if this is something it is investigating. We have yet to get a response to that inquiry.

Here is the school division's response to our questions regarding bus driver vacancies:

Currently we have twenty-four vacancies out of 469 positions; however, we are finalizing the hiring process for six to eight drivers who should be contracted in the next few days. We are utilizing all available bus drivers to split routes and/or double back to schools where needed to cover current vacancies so that every route is covered. A double-back may affect our secondary routes as many of our secondary buses are also used for our elementary schools and if for any reason an elementary bus is delayed it causes a chain reaction.

Bus driver vacancies are typically a harder position to fill. The school division is always searching for and continually hiring bus drivers. However, the vacancies are not the only cause for the delays; the age of our school bus fleet is also a concern. The school division has consistently highlighted the impact of state funding cuts that have negatively affected every element of our operations – including an appropriate funding method for the replacement of school buses.


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