CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Amanda Glenn counts herself as one of Chesterfield’s stressed-out parents as the county school system struggles to hire bus drivers during a nationwide shortage.
“It shouldn’t be happening. It’s unfair for the children,” the mother of three Chesterfield Schools students said. “It’s frustrating and hopeless. I haven’t been able to get any answers from the school.”
Since last Monday, the CBS 6 Problem Solvers have spoken to numerous parents frustrated with long lines for morning and afternoon pick up. In some cases, no buses were available to pick up students in certain neighborhoods due to the scarcity of trained drivers.
Glenn described the county’s ongoing shortage as chaotic.
“The kids are just sitting outside, they’re thirsty, they’re sweaty, and they’re hot. It’s stressful before they go to school. Anxiety is building now because they have to do the same thing in the evening,” Glenn said.
County and school leaders hope Monday’s announcement will ease some of the stress.
Chesterfield County Schools will boost starting school bus driver pay from $17.21 to $20.21 an hour and increase the signing bonus from $1,000 to $3,000.
Superintendent Merv Daugherty called the school bus driver shortage a national issue and thanked families who have answered the superintendent's call to drive their children to school.
The announcement comes at the beginning of the second week of school in Chesterfield.
“The market is so competitive now we just felt this was the time to move forward,” Daugherty told reporters.
County administration, the Board of Supervisors, as well as the School Board worked together to allocate the raises and bonuses from approximately $3.5 million in state funding.
“This morning, we are making an investment in education,” Chesterfield Board of Supervisors Chair Jim Holland said.
Daugherty issued an apologyafter the first few days of problems.
“I apologize to our families for the stress and frustration that these transportation problems have caused at the start of the school year,” he said in a statement posted on the school system's website Wednesday afternoon.
Chesterfield School Board Chair Ryan Harter said, “we all know we need some normalcy in our lives.”
Chesterfield County Public Schools already offers the highest hourly rate among the four major school divisions in Central Virginia.
They also offer two bonuses of $500 throughout the year and smaller ones for performance and attendance.
Meanwhile, Henrico County Schools announced last week they're offering bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 in hopes of attracting drivers.
Chesterfield said it was short around 100 bus drivers at last check. There are 33 drivers in the training pipeline, according to the county. About 75-80 applications were submitted last week.
“I’m hoping it will work,” Glenn said. “I just wish they would’ve thought of the idea before starting school or at least start school later like Henrico.”
At last check, Hanover Schools had 34 school bus driver vacancies and Richmond Schools had 20 bus driver vacancies.