Virginia Beach Schools facing critical shortage of bus drivers

Posted at 2:09 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 17:56:30-05

Virginia Beach, Va. – Virginia Beach City Public Schools leaders say they have a critical shortage of bus drivers but call the problem is manageable. Right now, the city is looking to hire about 50 drivers.

The shortage impacts when kids are getting picked up and dropped off from school.

Chesapeake Public Schools told NewsChannel 3 they have 17 vacancies with 3 soon-to-be-hired drivers and 6 candidates that are now in training.

Portsmouth reported two open vacancies.

Northampton County in Virginia said having enough bus drivers is a big problem for them. The superintendent said many times they train school bus drivers and the drivers get experience, then leave to work for private companies to make more money.

According to the National Association for Pupil Transportation data from 2015 survey shows that 73% of NAPT member school districts have a shortage of school bus drivers.

“It’s just like the domino. If they’re late at the high school, it’s going to be later at the elementary and so on,” said Virginia Beach Public School Director of Transportation Jay Cotthaus.

Virginia Beach Transportation leaders say on average the delays could be 20 minutes, but as much as 45 minutes on a bad day.   Cotthaus said they typically have more problems in the afternoon.

“Our goal is safety, not time,” says Jay Cotthaus.

The delays affect parents both in the morning and in the afternoon.

“With the time change, you never know when exactly to put them out there or when exactly to expect them home. So making plans around it makes it much harder,” says parent Kathryn Vatis.

She said she has second grade twins who have faced problems with delays in Northampton County, Va.

In Virginia Beach, Cotthaus says they have 540 buses on the road traveling 35,000 miles per day which is like driving to and from California five times.

Leaders say safety is their number one priority.

“Parents need to understand that we care for their children as much as they do and I’ve got 49,000 little ones that I need to get back and forth two times a day sometimes,” says Cotthaus.

There are several reasons for shortages of bus drivers.  Virginia Beach School leaders say there are required to undergo an extensive background check, must have a clean DMV record and subject to random drug tests. They say shortages are a result of compensation issues and work environment concerns.  In Virginia Beach a starting driver makes $13.50 an hour.

Northampton County school leaders say many times the train school bus drivers, provide them with experience and then they leave to work for a private company to make more money.

Click here if you’d like to apply to drive a bus for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.