A shortage of school bus drivers has forced Albemarle County Public Schools to adjust some routes and cut back on field trips.
Jim Foley, director of transportation for the school division, said in a recent email to parents that the division lost eight drivers to other jobs just before schools opened Aug. 22. In addition, five members of its latest class of driver trainees did not complete the program.
“It’s a tight labor market right now,” Foley said in an interview. “We are doing everything we can to make our jobs more attractive.”
He said the division has consolidated bus routes at some elementary schools. After dropping off a busload of students, some drivers head back out to pick up the remainder.
These “double-back” routes have been implemented at Agnor-Hurt, Cale, Greer, Hollymead and Woodbrook.
Foley said the school system also has “drastically reduced” the number of field trips occurring outside the hours of 9:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., the period between the morning and afternoon runs.
Relief drivers and mechanics with commercial licenses are helping to complete the division’s 159 bus routes, as well. Foley said he occasionally fills in for missing drivers.
The division is accepting applications for bus driver positions through its job listings website, albemarleva.tedk12.com/hire. The next training class starts Oct. 1.
The division offers paid training and full-time health benefits for bus drivers, with wages starting at $12.59 per hour. It also allows drivers to bring their own young children along on bus routes, thus providing potential savings on child care costs.
“If you’re good with kids, and you like kids, it can be a fairly easy job. And you often can make a big impact on a student’s life,” Foley said.