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Students across the 757 could experience bus delays due to critical driver shortages

Despite the shortages, many school leaders said their routes are covered, but students may have to sit on more crowded buses or wait longer at the bus stop.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Bus driver shortages are putting a wrench in transportation plans for Hampton Roads School Divisions. Most students return to the classroom next week.

Despite the shortages, many school leaders said their routes are covered, but students may have to sit on more crowded buses or wait longer at the bus stop.

A way around that? Some officials are asking parents to hop in the car and drive their kids to school if they can.   

School division transportation leaders in Newport News, Chesapeake and York County told 13News Now they are all in the same bus with shortages.  

“We are encouraging them to take their students to school, if possible,” said Chesapeake Transportation Director Dr. David Benson. “If not, we ask you to be patient.” 

Chesapeake’s driver vacancies keep increasing. 

“From 113, our number has gone up,” Dr. Benson said. “We are currently at 120 vacant bus driver vacancies.”  

Benson said students could experience delays at the bus stop. 

“We will try to get to bus stops as quickly as we can, but our only means of doing that will be doubling back on our routes that we don’t have drivers for,” Dr. Benson said.

Newport News Director Shay Coates added some kids will sit on longer, fuller bus routes with two to three students to a seat. They have 90 vacancies.  

“If we had to put one kid per seat just for one high school that would be almost 100 buses just to get one high school,” Coates said.

He said they’ve consolidated routes to keep routes running more smoothly.

“Our regular education routes and special needs routes, we usually have 280, as of this morning we had 228,” Coates said. “So, we were able to do some consolidation.” 

Many divisions also adjusted school schedules by a few minutes to accommodate all routes and required bus cleanings.  

“High School we moved ten minutes,” Coates said. “They start ten minutes earlier.”  

York County students started this week. Officials said they are still adjusting some routes after receiving more than 1,000 late requests.  

“We are feverishly trying to add those people to the buses,” said York County Chief Operations Officer Dr. James Carroll. “The downside to that, the more that are added, the bigger the routes are.” 

Leaders said they are always recruiting drivers and have all summer.  

Coates said their personnel with CDL licenses are helping them out too.

“Some of our dispatchers, some of our office staff,” Coates said. “We have full-time trainers who between training some of their trainees, they will be riding a bus.”

“We instituted a $1,500 sign-on bonus for anyone that came on with us for the first time,” Dr. Carroll said.

“We have seven people in training today,” Coates said.

They ask for patience while navigating the first weeks of school.  

 “Be at the bus stop with your mask on and we will get you to school as quickly as we can,” Dr. Benson said.

All Hampton Roads school divisions have driver vacancies they need to fill.

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