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'Bring back the bus!' Parents rally for more school buses in Williamsburg

A new transportation policy has left some parents and guardians scrambling days before the first day of school.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Monday marks the start of the school year for students in the Williamsburg-James City County School District.

But what’s meant to be an exciting day, has turned to stress for some parents as they try to find a way to get their child to school.

“It’s a stressful situation because school starts Monday, and I still haven’t really worked out the kinks of how they’re going to school," said Lyn Stewart, who has young children enrolled in WJCC schools.

This summer, the school board updated its transportation policy. Now, Stewart is among the families considered part of a "Non-Transportation Zone," meaning they can't catch the school bus in their neighborhood.

According to the school division's website, "that means you are responsible for ensuring your child is transported to and from school daily." 

RELATED: Ahead of school start, parents in 'Non-Transportation Zones' in WJCC concerned over safety of changed bus routes

“What am I going to do?” Stewart asked.

Families gathered at the Williamsburg Courthouse Saturday to rally against the “Non-Transportation Zones.”

They carried signs and chanted “Bring back the bus” and “Safety first.”

The policy change has left some families with one option: to walk. But for Andre Lee, walking his young granddaughter to school isn’t so easy.

“…How can she walk to school? I’m handicapped. I can’t even walk but so far,” Lee said at the rally.

Lashanda Dobson said she’s at work by the time school starts.

“I have to be at work at 8 o’clock in the morning. I would normally get someone to put her on the school bus. So now... I have to find somebody to take her to school. School starts at 9:35. I’m supposed to be at work," she said.

Dobson said having her 9-year-old daughter Faith walk to elementary school without her, is just too dangerous.

“…Walk down this long sidewalk on Centerville Road. Cars are booming by, flying by, and they have to walk,” Dobson said.

Faith joined her mother at the rally on Saturday. The incoming fourth-grader said the change worries her, as she's used to riding the bus.

“Uncomfortable. I’m usually used to sitting with my friends and it’s going to be weird walking to school for the first day of school," Faith said.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the Williamsburg-James City County School Division said that the change is a product of national and state bus driver shortages. You can read the full statement below:

"We are not immune to national and Virginia bus driver shortages. As a result of ongoing staffing challenges, WJCC Schools has considered various adjustments to create transportation efficiencies. Over the last two years, the division has contracted with a service provider to transport smaller groups of select students to and from school allowing our current drivers to focus on larger groups of students needing transport, matching student group size to the available vehicle/driver. This contractual arrangement is not a sustainable solution."

Parents started a petition, asking to get bus stops back in their neighborhoods. You can find the petition by clicking here.

RELATED: Hampton Roads school bus driver shortage looking a lot better this year, but many school divisions still hiring

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