Use of school buses during Something in the Water festival OK’d by VB school board

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) -The Virginia Beach school board has approved the use of school buses during the Something in the Water festival.

The city plans to use them as shuttles to get people back and forth during the three-day festival.
We’re told around 400 bus drivers have already signed up to help shuttle people around.

“We are grateful to our Virginia Beach Schools for partnering with us on such a critical service for the festival,” Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer said in a statement. “The eyes of the world will be on Virginia Beach and our ability to get people to and from the oceanfront will be a key component to our success.”

Dr. Aaron Spence, superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, said in a statement, “In reflecting on the positive impact this festival will have for Virginia Beach and ensuring better efficiency through this agreement, we can’t help but be proud to provide this service for attendees and fellow citizens.”

RELATED: Officials address ‘Something in the Water’ concerns

Board members had lots of questions before the vote, including ones about security and safety on the buses during the event. 

10 On Your Side learned drivers will be working five hours shifts and buses will be rotated at the end of each shift to give the vehicles a break. 10 On Your Side first reported 70 school buses could be used for the festival but school officials said that could vary with demand. 

“We have to have a little bit of flexibility when we’re thinking about some of the challenges that might be associated with transporting people,” Spence said Tuesday.

Buses won’t be available for the festival until 5 p.m. on Friday. They’ll run until 3:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday morning and until 11 p.m. Sunday night. Drivers who volunteer to sign up will be paid time and half until 8 p.m. and then double time after that.

“All the drivers are excited about doing this. It will bring them extra money,” said Mary Zepnikowski, a bus driver for the school district.

City officials said in a news release Wednesday there will no smoking, drinking or drug allowed on the buses, and weapons will be prohibited. Security will be in place at the event to check passengers before they board the buses.

More Something in the Water coverage on WAVY.com

Board members agree it is a good opportunity, but some of them said they would’ve liked better communication and more time.

“I heard about this on Facebook. My friend posted it,” said Laura K. Hughes,  At-Large member.

“I’m disappointed with how this has been presented to the board and that we’re forced to vote on it at the same time we’re getting all this information,” said Victoria C. Manning, At-Large member.

Members also had questions about safety during the event

The district transportation director said drivers will have two-way radios to call for assistance if needed.

We’re told passengers will be screened for weapons before boarding the bus but they won’t be checked for drugs or alcohol. The district transportation director said there is a list of prohibited items.

“I think we have a good security plan. Our drivers are excited about this. They’re not concerned about this,” Spence said. “These are veteran, seasoned transportation professionals. We think they’re going to do a great job.”

As we’ve previously reported, the city will provide insurance and reimburse the district for the cost of running the buses during the festival. The festival will reimburse the city for those expenses, which include drivers, fueling, cleaning, administrative support and life cycle percentage. 

It was also announced Tuesday that the city planned to move the shuttle site from General Booth Boulevard and Dam Neck road to the Veterans United Home Loans amphitheater off Princess Anne Road.

The festival is scheduled for April 26 through April 28 at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. More than 20 national acts are scheduled to perform across the sold-out event.

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