YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — On Monday, the York County School Division emailed parents to address concerns that the bus routes are stressed.
The issues are especially pronounced due to severe bus driver shortages.
The message Monday informed parents that more drivers are in training, efforts are underway to fix bus routes that were inefficient, the division is adding additional support staff, and they’re improving the MyStop app for accuracy.
On Thursday, 10 On Your Side went to York County and found a school bus outside York High School displaying a sign urging those driving by to become bus drivers.
Currently, York County is 24 drivers short.
Dr. Jim Carroll, chief operating officer for the York County School Division, explained how the driver shortage logistically impacts routes.
“We would love to have one route for every bus, so you are talking about 24 buses or 24 routes that cannot be fulfilled in an efficient manner. So that is going to cause us to engage in other strategies to get the students to and from school,” he said.
The York County School Division has about 500 routes to transport students to and from schools each day.
10 On Your Side also hopped on a bus with 17-year bus driver Rashard Marsh.
“We are usually parking our bus by 4:30 to 4:45 [p.m.], and some of us are not getting off the bus now until 6:30 in the evening. So some of us are on the bus from 5:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. in the evening trying to get the students to and from school,” he said.
York County also told 10 On Your Side that having parents inform the school system when students will not be on the bus will help. They also encourage carpooling is another part of the solution.
“We are making sure our routes are efficient and we are double-checking them, and we are adding staff next week,” Carroll added.
There is also a new strategy to give more money for new bus drivers.
“We doubled the referral bonus, and we have a $1,500 signing bonus, and we continue to recruit aggressively looking for people. And we hope people who see this [WAVY] report will consider applying for a driver position,” he said.
York County is implementing tracked ridership where parents sign up for when their child will be on the bus.
“We are encouraging our parents to carpool as much as possible with the same … parents and students in the car, so you reduce the chance of COVID,” he said.
York County is not alone. Drivers are needed almost everywhere:
- Hampton needs 19 more drivers
- York County needs 24 drivers
- Portsmouth needs 31 drivers
- Newport News is down 90 drivers
- Virginia Beach needs about 100 drivers
- Chesapeake needs even more at 113 drivers
Here is a message from veteran school bus driver Marsh, who is stressing that patience is key as the division works out the issues.
“We want to make sure all the kids are on the right bus, and make sure they are at the right stop and that they are safe,” Marsh said.