Opportunities to Help Bus Driver Shortage

Opportunities to Help Bus Driver Shortage
Posted on 01/31/2024

Do you know what is involved when Alleghany Highlands Public Schools staff cancel a bus route on a given school day?

It boils down to a continuing shortage of bus drivers, a problem that is affecting school divisions throughout Virginia and the nation. Currently, AHPS has six vacancies for full-time bus drivers. When an illness or other situation causes a driver not to report to work, school officials are forced to juggle transportation schedules to get students to and from school.  There are substitute bus drivers, but there is also a shortage of substitutes. Activity bus operations are also being affected. 

“When we have to cancel a bus at the last minute, there has been no time to plan for what caused it in advance,” said Eric Tyree, director of transportation and maintenance, for AHPS.  

Many AHPS bus drivers are connected to a digital communication group that allows them to “jump in” and provide ideas for assistance given specific needs to try to help when they are able.

On a recent school day, AHPS utilized four substitute drivers while canceling other routes. While AHPS ultimately canceled two bus routes for the day, there were numerous other routes that were maintained despite absences and vacancies thanks to the creativity of bus drivers, maintenance personnel, and administrative staff managing through the shortages. To complicate matters, the school division is also facing a shortage of full-time bus aides, and car shuttle drivers. Shuttle drivers help transport students with special needs or other special situations.

“We are even using maintenance staff to fill transportation needs, and we are seeing a growing demand for shuttle requests. We hope that parents and the public understand that this isn't just a local problem. It is a problem that is growing nationwide,” Tyree said.

Approximately 88 percent of school systems that responded to a recent national survey by Hop Skip Drive, an organization focused on transportation access for children, said driver shortages have constrained school transportation operations.

“We are so proud of our transportation team for all the ways they cooperate to help kids get to school,”  said Kim Halterman and Melinda Snead-Johnson, leaders of AHPS.  “We also want to acknowledge that they, along with all of our staff involved in behind-the-scenes planning and communications, are working very hard each day to keep our buses moving,” they continued. 

Tyree says the solution is for more people to apply for jobs in the AHPS Transportation Department. It is important to recognize that serving as a substitute or a car driver may also meet a key school division need.  

At a recent meeting of the Alleghany Highlands School Board, a variety of ideas were suggested as possible strategies to help the situation, but the hiring of additional staff remains a clear need.

“If you have any interest in supporting the school division and its transportation department as a bus driver, shuttle driver, or as a bus attendant for special needs students, please contact us at the bus garage. Substitute drivers are needed just as badly,” Tyree said.

The school division is preparing for a busy spring sports and activities season, and having additional bus drivers as well as shuttle drivers will be helpful as well.  Shuttle drivers do not need a CDL.  The school division is also currently hiring for mechanics.

For more information, contact Christina Lemaster, AHPS’ Transportation Manager, at (540) 965-1800. Applications can be submitted online at www.ahps.k12.va.us.  Anyone wishing to have assistance completing the application can also contact the bus garage or AHPS Human Resources.

The Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Division was created through the July 1, 2022, merger of Allegany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center. The school division, which serves approximately 2,700 students, is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. 

School division news and events are regularly posted on Facebook at AHPublicSchools. The division website can be visited at ahps.k12.va.us.

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