Bus driver shortages still trouble many local school divisions

Rockingham County estimates they are down 15 drivers.
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 7:51 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - With the goal of more students returning to in-person learning in the future, many school districts are still facing a common problem: a lack of bus drivers.

Bus driver shortages are not unique to the greater Shenandoah Valley area and are not new in the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was a shortage before the pandemic, but the changes brought about by the pandemic make the search for drivers even harder.

Michael Van Meter, the director of transportation in Grant County, West Virginia, said there have been struggles in the past to fill all of the driver slots in their division, but this year the are in good shape.

“It makes it so much nicer if a driver needs to be off or if a driver gets sick and needs to be off for a while. It is awful nice to have a sub list and subs on there to get them to drive for us,” Van Meter said.

Unfortunately, that is not the case for all school districts.

Lucas Long with Shenandoah County Public Schools said they don’t have any vacancy of full-time bus drivers, but finding substitutes has been tough.

“It has been a problem we’ve been trying to mitigate for some time now, but the pandemic has caused it to be once more increasingly difficult to recruit and retain substitute bus drivers,” Long said.

Long said delays with the DMV have extend the driver certification process, and that may deter some drivers.

“It’s very discouraging for the timeline it takes to begin training, and to where the training could be complete. It’s hard on the community members to take such a long time prior to actually being gainfully employed from the start of training,” Long said.

Page and Rockingham County Schools are also experiencing shortages for both full-time and substitute drivers.

“We’re managing. There are some hiccups along the way here and there,” said Jeremy Mason, the director of transportation for Rockingham County Public Schools.

Mason said the county is down about 15 positions, which has caused them to make some changes to the typical routes but he said they are making it work for now.

He said the bus driver certification process was lengthy to begin with and changes to the DMV during the pandemic are making the process longer.

However, Rockingham County has found a way to continue the certification process.

“DMV has worked with us on some things, like we’re able to get certified to administer the knowledge test here. We were already a third-0party tester to do the behind the wheel testing. So some of those things have helped a lot, but it’s still not back quite to the way it was,” Mason said.

Mason said they are working to finish out the school year, but the bigger concern is getting more staff for next school year.

Rockingham County plans to hold another driver course next month.

“We’ll keep working to try to get some folks back,” Mason said.

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