CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Albemarle County Public Schools has been dealing with a bus driver shortage for almost a decade. It’s only gotten worse over time.
“People wore out and get old, and retire and go on to other things," ACPS Transportation’s Director of Operations Charles Leathers said. "We’ve been struggling to keep pace.”
That means disruption for both parents and students. Late pickups, later drop-offs, and changing routes are just a few of the side-effects of the shortage. Students could be missing breakfast at school or even instructional time.
“In many cases the buses are late getting to school, you know, so the taken time for elementary is 7:45 a.m., some buses may not get there until 8 a.m., In some cases, rare cases, it could be 8:15 a.m.," Leathers explained.
ACPS adjusted their retirement benefits last year, cutting retirement eligible hours down from eight hours to six hours. That had an unintended consequence for the shortage within the Virginia Retirement System.
“In VRS you could, if you’re retired and collecting a pension you can only work 80% of the eligibility hours for that position,” ACPS Director of Transportation Jim Foley said. "So, before it was 8 which is 6.4 hours that you could work, and now it’s 6 which is 4.8 hours.”
Legislation has been introduced in both houses of the General Assembly to address the problem. The bills, from 58th District Del. Rob Bell and 25th District Sen. Creigh Deeds, are not yet companion bills. However, both would provide immediate relief.
“School bus drivers along with teachers that are in shortage, those positions would be designated as a critical shortage position,” Foley said. "Then they could work full time and still collect their full pension.”
“Right now we have three open routes and four supervisory positions that are vacant so would immediately give me that back," Leathers added. “The retention benefit will be super, and as well as bringing in other people that have already retired.”
Both the Senate and the House of Delegates bills are in committee and awaiting further action.