Cars wrap around school, down the street as Chesterfield bus driver shortage lingers

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Chesterfield parents scrambled Tuesday to try and figure out a way to get their kids to school on time as the bus delays continue.

Students in seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th grade went back to school for their first day Tuesday and some parents shared on social media their child didn’t have a bus at all.

Parents started the car line at Tomahawk Creek Middle as early as 2:00 p.m. Tuesday to pick up their kids. The line wrapped around the school and down the street. Some parents said it’s just another issue stemming from the bus driver shortage. At least five empty buses pulled into the middle school’s driveway to load kids.

“They’re easily going to miss part of their first day of school, and that’s a terrible way to get the day, the week, the year started,” said Michael Mulhall, parent of two Chesterfield County students.

He and his wife Jill’s daughter, Olivia, had her first day of eighth grade at Tomahawk Creek Middle School Tuesday.

“Middle school starts at 8:30, first class and the bus pulled up here at 8:30,” Mulhall said.

Because of the late bus, shown in a video taken by Mulhall pulling up at 8:27 a.m., they ended up taking Olivia to school on their own Tuesday morning.

Monday, for their 4th grader JP’s first day, it was a similar situation. “Our youngest son, whose bus was supposed to be here at 8:47 to start a class at 9:30 in the morning, the bus didn’t come until 10 o’clock,” Mulhall told 8News in an interview Tuesday.

JP didn’t get off the bus from Winterpock Elementary until late Monday evening. “He didn’t get home until six, seven minutes after 6:00 last night,” Mulhall said.

Winterpock Elementary students get off of the bus from their first day of school on August 23 late in the evening, after 6 o’clock. (Photo: Michael Mulhall)

Mulhall said bus drivers should be paid more, at least $30 an hour, in hopes of increasing staffing numbers, to prevent students from missing the bell. He said Senator Amanda Chase and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger should work together to pull funding from the $2.6 billion surplus Virginia ended fiscal year 2021 with.

“If they’re missing part of the school day and they’re not getting enough time to come home and read, do homework or play, I think that’s an issue,” he said.

A spokesperson with Chesterfield County Public Schools told 8News that their bus drivers are paid over $17 an hour and over $25 an hour with experience. The school district also continues to share there will be delays due to the driver shortages.

ABC News talked to the CEO and Co-founder of the ride-service company HopSkipDrive, Joanna McFarland. She said economic forces are playing into the bus driver shortage nationwide. 

Often, it takes weeks to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) — which is a requirement for bus drivers. People who obtain the license can then often find higher-paying jobs that don’t require splitting up their day for morning and afternoon pick-ups. 

McFarland did lay out some benefits to the job — including being off for holidays and weekends. 

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