Transportation issues effect bringing back all K-12 students in Rockingham Co.

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 11:21 PM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Some Rockingham County Public School students in grades 2 through 8 will be heading back to the classroom next month.

On Oct. 12, the county school board approved welcoming those students back on a hybrid schedule. Beginning Nov. 16, students will attend two days per week on a rotating A/B schedule. RCPS high school students will remain online for the remainder of the first semester with the possibility of in-person learning next semester.

One of the main reasons high school students are remaining virtual is transportation issues. Superintendent Dr. Oskar Scheikl said there are not enough buses and bus drivers to transport all RCPS students to schools at this time.

Under CDC guidance, he said about 20 students are fitting on buses meant for 70.

“The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education gave permission for there to be one student in each row and then if you have family members, people who already live together, they can sit together in a row,” Scheikl said.

He said because of these safety measures, bringing all students back every day of the week would “never work.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and safety restrictions, Scheikl said a bus driver shortage affected schools locally, statewide, and nationally.

“We have faced the bus driver shortage just live every other school district,” Scheikl said. “This is not a Rockingham County issue."

Now, Scheikl said they are encouraging people to apply for their commercial driver’s license, but holdups at the DMV and driving requirements do not make getting additional drivers a speedy process.

“Before they can drive our routes, you have to have a certain number of hours with students on a bus," Scheikl said. "That also has to be scheduled, takes time as people have to move through the training classes. Then they complete that, take the test and all these other pieces have to fall into place.”

By next semester, Scheikl said he believes they will have the drivers available to support transportation for all grade levels.

Scheikl said RCPS families with children in grades 2 through 8 have until Friday, Oct. 16 to contact schools if they want to change a student’s learning schedule and transportation needs that were originally selected this summer.

After collecting that information, the division will work to determine bus routes and which students will attend A days, and which will attend B days.

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