ACPS asking families to fill out survey before cutting bus routes

Some big changes are coming to Albemarle County bus routes next school year.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 5:20 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Some big changes are coming to Albemarle County bus routes next school year. The division is trying to eliminate late bus arrivals and departure delays, which are caused by a driver shortage.

Even after pay increases and incentivizing applicants with benefits, ACPS is still heading out of this school year down 14 drivers. Now it has been forced to find new ways to find handle a driver shortage so less students are late to school next year.

“There’s about there’s about 9,000 kids that say they need a bus. There’s about 5,200 that actually ride,” ACPS routing and planning manager Renee DuVall said.

This means some buses drive through the county half full, wasting resources and drivers when there’s already a shortage.

“That increases our vacant routes. It creates an open route,” ACPS Director of Transportation Charmane White said.

In the upcoming school year, ACPS will be cutting some stops and routes to free up space. The district wants to eliminate any open routes-- meaning those that do not have a driver. DuVall has been planning the routes for 20 years, and she says this will be one of the bigger changes she’s seen.

“We can lower the ride time of the bus and be able to pick up more students or we can lower the capacity of the bus by saying ‘Your child’s not riding the bus this year,’” DuVall said.

The cuts will be decided by July 31 after parents fill out a survey due that is due on June 30. DuVall says parents need to think about their answer before just their child needs a ride.

“If you don’t need a ride and you’re worried about a plan B, think about an alternate plan B other than the school bus, because these students, a lot of these students, that’s their only way to get to school,” DuVall said.

Right now, the county plans on consolidating stops on private roads.

“In the past, we may have had about 10 stops in the community. Now we can combine all those stops to one. And we have gone out and vetted out these areas. We want to make sure that it’s safe,” White said.

White says the schools are working with police to expand walk zones in a safe way to one mile for elementary schools and one and a half miles for secondary schools.

“Part of our policies are that our young or younger group, or K through five, supervision is in place for them. So that’s a regulation,” White said.

ACPS says the goal is to eliminate “double backs” and make sure students get to school on time.

In the upcoming school year, if a route does not have a driver, it won’t run. That includes if a driver is sick for a day or an extended amount of time. Or, if there is not a driver on staff to pick up a route that is not a priority at the beginning of the year, that route will be cut.

“We are required by law to transport special needs students and our homeless population, so those are the communities that by law we have to transport. But beyond that, riding a bus, it’s a privilege,” White said.

All ACPS parents are being asked to respond to the survey by June 30, even if their child will not need bus transportation.

If a parent requests transportation for their child after June 30, their child will be placed on a waitlist for service. This will not affect families who register their child for school after June 30 or students who receive transportation service by law.

Parents should log in to their PowerSchool Parent Portal to complete the survey.

ACPS is raising its driver pay again as well, increasing it by 5%. If the district can get more drivers before the school year, less routes will have to be cut.

More information on the planned changes is available here.

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