STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Stafford County Public Schools was one of the first school districts in our area to begin in-person learning when it welcomed students back to class on August 9. Associate Superintendent Dr. Stan Jones told WUSA9 the early start date was to address challenges presented by the pandemic. One of those challenges already making itself known: A shortage of school bus drivers.
Parents expressed frustration over the lack of communication by the school district on the first day of school on Monday, and issues are continuing into the week.
One parent who spoke to WUSA9 said it's his first year his kids have ridden the bus at Stafford County Public Schools.
"It's been a challenge trying to keep them calm about the way things are working out," Justin Kronenberg said.
He said on Monday the school district issued no notifications of delays, which caused problems getting his kids to after-school care. The parent said his son was left at the school nearly two hours after school was dismissed for the day on Monday. Meanwhile his daughter was dismissed at the regular time.
Kronenberg said on Tuesday, the school district sent more notifications.
"We got text messages, emails, automated messages. But what was frustrating about that was that our student was delayed, no estimate was given and they didn't specify which student they were talking about," he explained.
The frustration continued when using a mobile phone app set up to tack bus routes.
"Unfortunately the mobile app... showed that there was no delays. It actually indicated that my daughter, who's only in third grade, had been delivered to daycare... when in fact she was at her school," Kronenberg said.
In a statement, Stafford County Public Schools blamed the issues on a shortage of bus drivers and asked parents for patience.
"Stafford County Public Schools is experiencing a bus driver shortage, along with many school divisions across the nation. The school division planned transportation for 26,000 students this year. We are aware of the problems that occurred and are evaluating our procedures to ensure transportation runs more smoothly as we move forward every day. We thank our families for their patience during the early weeks of school," the statement reads.
Kronenberg said he understands the shortage, but wants better communication from the school district going forward.
"I hope they can get around these challenges that they're having because it's really frustrating for all the parents out there," Kronenberg said. "The communication is really lacking right now."
Dr. Jones said Monday that the school district recently held a bus driver open house hire more drivers, and offer incentives to get drivers behind the wheel.
"We have about 12 bus drivers that are in training right now," Jones said. "Just looking at the salaries of bus drivers and how we can incentivize more folks to do it."
Stafford County Public Schools is currently offering a sign-on bonus for drivers with paid training. Stafford County Public Schools said anyone interested in becoming a bus driver should contact SCPS Transportation at 540-374-8571 or apply online at staffordschools.net.