CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- While application numbers and pay have gone up in the Chesterfield County school district, veteran bus drivers are saying that morale is low.
However, despite this improvement, some drivers are speaking out about their new concerns with new COVID-19 protocols during an ongoing driver shortage in the district.
Bus driver staffing for Chesterfield Schools is at 75%, according to the school district's transportation director. Hard-pressed transportation officials with Chesterfield County Schools said that a driver hiring spree has improved their on-time record.
However, despite these improvements, some bus drivers are still expressing concerns.
Many of them say that the problem boils down to the fact that they are feeling unheard, overworked and underappreciated.
The drivers agreed that their number one goal is the safety of children but they feel that the district is prioritizing paperwork. As the drivers are making multiple runs a day, they're worried about getting written up for not missing or not following new COVID-19 protocols.
One issue that is run into a lot is the use of tablets by drivers to get students checked in on the bus.
"We're having to use tablets, we're having to check names off all sitting in the middle of the road," one bus driver said.
"We're not here to do all this paperwork. It's a lot of paperwork when you're traveling on the road," another said.
"They don't need to have this tablet, they don't need to have use writing down the kid's names. We did it for years without the tablet and without the list of kids," a third said.
At a work session on Tuesday night, the use of tablets was discussed.
Board member Debbie Bailey said that getting children checked in on tablets is burdensome for drivers and has slowed things down. While students who are in preschool or kindergarten have cards that can make check-in faster, other grades don't have the same option.
"We're seeing if that works but if that's something that we go toward I think will make it faster, I think it's new technology. This is not the start I would've wanted for our tablets," the transportation director said.
Despite the problems discussed by some bus drivers, the transportation director's presentation outlined improvement of on-time arrivals and dropoffs since the beginning of the school year.
The board also asked the superintendent to implement a transportation task force to make recommendations for long-term solutions to challenges identified by the task force.