Hampton Roads school districts face bus driver shortages ahead of 2021-22 school year

Virginia Beach School Buses
Posted at 11:08 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 10:40:27-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Students could face possible bus delays when they head back to class this fall.

There are school bus driver shortages across Hampton Roads, with more than 100 vacancies in Virginia Beach to fill this summer.

Other school districts in Hampton Roads are having the same problem.

Chesapeake has 119 vacancies, Newport News has 87 vacancies, Norfolk has 85 vacancies, Hampton has 45 vacancies and Portsmouth has 32 vacancies to fill.

Sherwood Bernard has been a school bus driver for eight years.

"It will be nice to see students five days a week. I love driving the school bus!" said Sherwood Bernard, who works for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

He’s a third-generation bus driver and says he wouldn’t trade it for the world.

"My grandmother drove here for 48 years. My aunt still drives; she’s been here for 34 years. I’ve been driving for eight years, and my wife is in her eighth year."

Right now, drivers like Bernard are in short supply.

"Right now, we’re shy a little over 100 drivers," said James Lash, the executive director of transportation for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Lash says they plan to consolidate to keep up with demand.

"We do encourage parents to transport their children. We are reviewing routes and consolidating some runs and tweaking our operation to lessen the impact of the driver shortage here in Virginia Beach," Lash said.

Lash says the school district has been able to make it through the pandemic with 510 bus drivers but will be working this summer to get back to their normal 630 drivers.

Virginia Beach’s starting pay for bus drivers is $15.29. Hampton City Schools has a starting pay at $15.73, and Suffolk Public Schools has a starting pay at $14.60.

"We do offer benefits; health insurance. Also, they would get sick leave as well as participation in the Virginia retirement system," Lash said.

Related: As more Hampton Roads students return to school, technology helps track buses

Bernard says the schedule makes it convenient for parents.

"It’s nice because when the kids are going on Spring Break, I get to go on Spring Break and you get paid on contract. It’s wonderful. I do think it’s a good job for moms and dads who really can’t afford childcare. They can come on the bus," Bernard said.

If you are interested in becoming a school bus driver, you can check on all the applications below:

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