RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Local school divisions in Central Virginia are scrambling to hire bus drivers. The shortage poses a possible threat to student transportation.
The bus driver shortage can be attributed, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of people retiring and jobseekers headed to other competitive industries.
Chesterfield County Public Schools, one of the largest districts in the Richmond area, needs to hire dozens of bus drivers.
Back in March, the district filled all of their vacancies, but today it is 63 bus drivers short.
Chesterfield Schools didn’t respond to 8News’ questions about how the bus driver shortage is affecting transportation, but there has been a similar issue in Hanover County Public Schools, which is looking to hire 43 more bus drivers.
Hanover Schools said two people left since the beginning of the school year, but ten people are in various stages of training. The shortage has caused minor delays in rural areas of the county because of longer runs, but they’re not widespread, the school division said.
The district in Hanover even began offering sign-on bonuses for new drivers this summer, which allowed people to earn $500 after the first 60 days of employment and another $500 after the first semester.
Even though Hanover Schools needs dozens of drivers to take students back and forth, they’re still in better shape than last school year.
In a previous interview with 8News, Richmond Public Schools superintendent Jason Kamras said they’re driving through the rest of the year with zero vacancies.
“This is the first time that’s been the case in years,” Kamras said. He also mentioned that having the highest bus driver pay in the region and bonuses are the reasons for filling all of their positions at RPS.
“We no longer have what are called ‘double backs,’ or ‘triple backs,’ where the bus has to take some kids and come back and then take more kids, and that has resulted in kids being late to school. We don’t have that this year,” Kamras said.
Richmond Schools still has about 100 teacher vacancies, but they’ll receive an update on staffing at next Monday’s school board meeting.
8News reached out to Henrico County Public Schools about bus driver vacancies on two separate occasions, but we have not received a response.