Did someone forward you this email? Maybe you’ve found it on the web? Here’s where you can subscribe for free!

Friday, Sept. 1, 2023

As Charlottesville City Schools enters another school year, hundreds of its students got a familiar message: They won’t be getting a bus to school. Around 1,000 students in Albemarle County got the same message as the school year began. The cause is no surprise at this point: there’s a bus driver shortage.

A taxi picks is parked in by a sidewalk beside a sign that reads, "Do not pass buses loading or unloading students."
Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

City Schools is working to take over its bus system from Charlottesville Area Transit as the driver shortage persists

This is the second consecutive year our local districts have been unable to bus all the students to school who need it. Last year, Albemarle was able to offer all their students seats, though being understaffed meant buses were frequently late, and sometimes didn’t arrive at all.

A child dashes off a yellow school bus in a neighborhood surrounded by trees in fall colors.
Credit: Kori Price/Charlottesville Tomorrow

From Nov. 2022: Dozens of Albemarle kids miss the first hour of school each week because their buses arrive late

This year, the situation has worsened. In Albemarle, some 1,000 students were not assigned bus seats as the year began, district officials said. In Charlottesville, that number was more than 2,000, according to data from a City Schools spokesperson. Around 1,200 of those are students who live within designated “family responsibility zones,” where they are close enough to their school to walk.

Both districts worked hard last year to address the driver shortage. They raised pay, Charlottesville and Albemarle offered sign-on bonuses, and both participated in major recruitment efforts. It hasn’t been enough.

From the community

A blue block with the words, "Shop local with our greater C-ville Black business guide" and a button that says "Explore the Guide." Two logos are on the right, on that says ENVISION and another that says "United Way United Way of Greater Charlottesville"

Want to sponsor local journalism? Here’s how.

Before we all come down too hard on the districts, though, this is a problem happening across the country right now. In Pittsburgh, for instance, a dozen students were forced to go back to virtual learning this year because the district couldn’t bus them to school, according to this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article. In Louisville, the district postponed its start date this year because the bus system couldn’t get students to school, according to this AP article.

Our local districts will still have to find solutions, though. In Charlottesville, Superintendent Royal Gurley is pushing for the district to take control of the bus system. It is currently managed by Charlottesville Area Transit. If the school district had control of it, the bus drivers would be able to access school district benefits, and the district would have more control over pay and other incentives.

In the meantime, there are a lot of kids out in both Charlottesville and Albemarle County making their own way to school this fall. If you’re out during those times, please drive with extra caution!

Or as substitute crossing guard Adrienne Dent told us in February, “Your slowness helps us do our jobs safely. It could easily save a life. See those flashing yellows? Slow ridiculously down.”

Person with long hair and beanie, bright yellow vest that reads "CROSSING GUARD" stands in an intersection with a car passing, radar gun in hand.

Why a crossing guard will suggest Charlottesville’s City Council install speed cameras near schools

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, everyone! I’ll see you back here Wednesday.

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

Our Sponsors

Want to sponsor our newsletter? Here’s how.

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.