Roanoke City school buses battle driver shortages, traffic; cause hours-long delays on first day

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 11:02 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - There were some bumps in the road for Roanoke City schools on the first day of classes, some bumps that caused serious holdups. The first day saw Durham school bus delays that caused some students to be picked up and dropped off late to class.

“We have a shortage of drivers. It is a national, it is a regional, and it is a statewide issue,” noted Chris Perkins, Chief Operations Officer at Roanoke City Public Schools, at a meeting Tuesday night. “That shortage created doubles; that means a bus has to make two runs to cover a driver that is not there.”

This, paired with traffic accidents, construction, and other factors, is why the city says some students were late getting to school, and hours late arriving home.

“She texted me about 4 p.m. to let me know ‘I still hadn’t been picked up yet’,” recalled Justin Robertson, the parent of a Roanoke City Schools middle schooler. He said she got home two hours later than she should have.

City school officials urge patience and understanding from parents as they navigate the start of the school year, noting it was the first day of in-person learning in 17 months.

“I’m not providing these issues as an excuse, and Durham is certainly not,” Perkins adds. “But, I feel it is important that if we do not embrace the drivers who were here today, then we may lose more drivers.”

School officials also say things may even get worse before it gets better, because of the increase in traffic that may occur from more parents taking kids to and from schools themselves.

“It’s not something that can continue to happen,” says Robertson. “First day is understandable. If there’s irregular traffic, that can be understandable, but if it happens frequently then no, no one can deal with that. That’s crazy.”

In a statement to WDBJ7, Durham school buses said:

We are working to minimize these delays. There is a nation-wide shortage of bus drivers, the worst we have experienced in our 100+ year history. We continue to recruit for great drivers to join our team. Anyone who may be interested can go here to apply.

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