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10 buses arrive over an hour late to Albemarle County Schools on Monday

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:57 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A school bus driver crunch turned the usual wait at the bus stop into a long pause Monday morning in Albemarle County.

Monday’s issue centered on drivers calling out sick. With fewer of them on the job already, that led to long waits for students.

“We’ve not seen a number like this,” Phil Giaramita with Albemarle County Schools said. “When you’re talking about 10 buses being an hour late, that’s highly, highly unusual, and it’s all directly traceable to the shortage of drivers.”

This problem is not new. Albemarle County Schools is short drivers nearly every year. But this year, has presented new challenges due to the pandemic.

“COVID is, is clearly having an impact,” Giaramita said. “When you think about not just drivers who come down with COVID but drivers who have to quarantine because they are a close contact. And then there are drivers who are just concerned about their health.”

Six drivers called in sick Monday, which only made issues caused by the shortage worse. ACPS says late arrivals are not too rare, but the delays Monday morning went to a new extent.

“The shortage that we’re talking, looking at now of close to 20 drivers, is not something we’ve experienced for quite some time,” Giaramita said. “In the past, when you get up around a shortage of 10 or 12 that begins to get a little difficult, so you can imagine at 20.”

When drivers are out sick, ACPS has to make changes, and some of these cause the delays.

“Those adjustments include consolidating routes and also doubling back on some of these routes,” Giaramita said. “Which means you drop students off at a school and then you go back and pick up another group of students and bring them.”

Parents have been encouraged to drive their kids to school instead. Giaramita says he realizes not all parents can do that. ACPS is also thinking about expanding walk zones.

“Hopefully with all of these measures in place it’ll relieve some of the pressure and reduce the time that children are on a bus, and certainly eliminate these late arrivals,” Giaramita said.

ACPS says the competitive market makes it tough to recruit drivers. Right now, it is incentivizing drivers with $2,500 bonuses. That’s more than what Charlottesville is offering.

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