School district anticipates increase in bus riders as fuel costs soar

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 2:47 PM EST
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ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ) - The increasing cost of fuel isn’t yet impacting one hometown school district, but they say the price jump could soon put an additional strain on an already understaffed department.

“Every division in the state is doing this right now, it’s not something that’s unique to Franklin County but we’re all in this,” begins Jason Guilliams, director of operations for Franklin County Public Schools. “It takes an entire team with many moving parts to make it happen on a daily basis.”

Those parts include condensing, redoing, and rerouting the multiple bus routes to serve the schools in Franklin County. It’s a problem many districts have dealt with since the start of the school year.

Additionally, the increasing fuel costs could put an unintended strain on school transportation departments.

“If our ridership increases, that could cause some overloading,” explains Guilliams. “We have a limit of how many students can be on a bus at a certain time.”

Franklin County Schools anticipates an increase in bus riders because some parents may see it as more cost-effective than driving their children to school daily. The driver shortage itself has a trickledown effect, causing bus mechanics and other administrative staff to be pulled away from their work to drive.

The district also says it is not feeling the impact of the fuel spike yet.

“Right now it has not started to affect us as far as our fleet is concerned because we have contract fuel pricing,” he explains.

That pricing currently has the district paying a little over $2.00 a gallon, at least, for the next few weeks.

“We end March 31st so we’re in the process of renegotiating a contract for fuel prices for the next 12 months,” adds Guilliams.

FCPS says it isn’t too concerned yet with the probable raise in price that will come in the new contract, they are more worried about their drivers affording to pay to come to work in the meantime.

it’s a workforce, like so many school divisions across the country, they’re still looking to add to.

“Adding school drivers, bus monitors, would help us immensely. Right now we know we have eight open routes, and right now we know we have approximately seven retirees at the end of the year. So we’re looking at 15 open positions next school year that are going to be difficult to fill.”

The school district says anyone who is interested in becoming a bus driver should call the transportation office. They also say they have training available year-round, so they will be able to get you started right away, even if you show interest over the summer.

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