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Friday, Aug 11, 2023

Just weeks before school is set to begin, the parents of 1,000 Albemarle County Public School students were notified that their children will not be bussed to school. The messages started going out July 31, catching families off guard. The district said last fall that no student would go without a bus.

What happened? That’s unclear. Our reporter tried multiple times to speak with Albemarle County Public School officials this week. No one returned her requests for comment, and following a contentious School Board meeting last night, Superintendent Matt Haas declined to speak with her. So, we don’t know which students are going without buses, how district officials made that selection, why they are suddenly short bus drivers or what their plans are to correct the situation. An ACPS spokesperson told Charlottesville Tomorrow to check back next week and there might be more information.

A child with a pink backpack waves goodbye to someone off camera as she walks toward a yellow school bus.

Just weeks before the school year begins, 1,000 Albemarle County children are booted from bus routes

According to a former Albemarle bus driver, who spoke with Charlottesville Tomorrow on condition of anonymity, there were drivers who quit over the summer. She herself was among them. She signed up last spring, joining eight other people in a training cohort. Of those eight trainees, only three finished the training, she said. One of the issues was that new trainees thought they would be getting bonuses that never materialized, she said. 

But in her case, her reason for leaving was far more ironic: She learned her own child will not get a seat on a bus, and she would not be able to be a driver and transport her child to school.

We’re going to follow this story closely as the school year begins, and we’re interested in hearing from more Albemarle County parents, as well as current and former bus drivers, about what is happening. If you have any information, please contact reporter Tamica Jean-Charles at tjeancharles [AT] cvilletomorrow [DOT] org.

A very similar situation is unfolding again in Charlottesville. Like Albemarle, Charlottesville is also short on drivers and many City Schools students will not have bus seats. So, we would also like to hear from Charlottesville parents or bus drivers.

Charlottesville Planning Commission recommends new zoning ordinance to City Council

In other news, the Charlottesville Planning Commission had a very busy week. During a seven hour long meeting Tuesday, the Commission voted to recommend the proposed new citywide zoning ordinance to City Council. That means, Council will soon hold a final public hearing and then vote on the new ordinance. We’ll let you know when they set the dates!

A lot surrounded by a wire fence at the corners of a street, with a one-story brick building. A sign in front is empty, except for some washed out text.
Credit: Erin O'Hare/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Planning Commission recommends Cherry Avenue development to City Council

Also at that meeting, the Planning Commission OKed a developer’s plan to build affordable housing units, commercial space and a grocery store on a vacant lot in the city’s Fifeville neighborhood. The plan will now go before the City Council, which will have a public hearing before ultimately deciding whether or not to allow the development to go ahead. The date of that public hearing has not been set, but we’ll let you know when it is.

Neighbors of a different proposed development also came to that Planning Commission meeting. Several 10th & Page residents spoke to both the Planning Commission and the City Council this week, urging officials to not allow the Dairy Market developer to build multi-story mixed use buildings in the lots south of Dairy Market. You can read more about what they said, and how officials reacted, in this Daily Progress article.

Stony Point Development Group has not yet applied to the city for a special use permit to develop the lots where Twice in Nice, Fifth Season and Preston Suds now stand. The group released their proposals to neighbors in a public meeting last month, which is something the city requires developers do before applying for permits. The neighbors who attended the meeting, many of whom are low income, were horrified by the plans, which target wealthy individuals. Residents have since mobilized to express their concerns and have a say in what happens at that site.

If you’re still with me, thanks for reading! I hope you all have a great weekend.

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.