ACPS middle schooler standing up to shorten the length of bus rides
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A sixth grader is trying to bring about some changes to long bus routes while Albemarle County continues to deal with a shortage of drivers.
Some bus routes can be up to three hours roundtrip. Eleven-year-old Lucia Omand recently spoke up a School Board meeting, because she says the driver shortage is impacting her friends.
“I researched and I found out that it does, the bus rides, the longer bus rides affects the life,” Lucia said. “This year, I decided to actually take a stand for other kids, too.”
The Journey Middle School student submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the get info from ACPS. She says in return, she received an itemized list in order of shortest to longest routes that kids were riding.
“The route was supposed to be in an hour and a half. It was going to be very long, and under the circumstances this year, nobody should have to be on the bus ride for that long,” Lucia said. “I just didn’t like how it threw off their mental and health ability. And like most of the kids that I knew who were on buses for that long, we’re normally sleep on their desks or not play at recess and take the time to rest. So they were missing out on class time.”
Lucia’s parents drive her to school, because she says the route from her house in Earlysville is too inconvenient: Taking the bus would mean not getting home until around 5 p.m. She says this is an even shorter route than she and her brother were supposed to ride.
Last year, Lucia and her brother were districted to go to Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, though she says the bus ride to Broadus Wood is much closer. She and her brother pushed to go to Broadus Wood and finally got approval, though she says they will have to fight to get this approval again next year. She says she wants to make sure other students don’t have to go through that.
“Once they get more bus drivers, make the commute shorter,” Lucia said.
The county is trying to do that: “It’s been a source of great frustration for us in that we haven’t been able to attract more folks, in addition to the increases in pay and the sign on bonus and the full-time benefits,” ACPS Spokesperson Phil Giaramita said.
Albemarle Co. is still down 18 drivers. Giaramita says the county is working on some alternative solutions right now and staff members hope to have a clearer idea later in the fall. He says smaller buses could work, because they require a different training than the bigger school buses. Giaramita says they are also considering working with a consultant to solve some of the regional issues.
“I’m not old enough to drive or to work yet, but I do think those who have the license and the ability to do that, they should try and step up,” Lucia said.
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