Roanoke City Public Schools will stagger start times to minimize potential bus delays

Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 6:39 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) students are getting ready for the first day of classes and so are school officials who are working to minimize bus delays.

Families saw significant problems last year with students sometimes returning home two hours late. RCPS and Durham School Services have come up with solutions to make sure those delays do not happen again.

Schools will start on staggered times, and Durham reports it has enough bus drivers to cover all the routes.

RCPS schools are starting and ending at different times this year, so there will not be any double routes with buses. The district’s chief academic officer explained the decision was finalized at the June 13 board meeting.

“We had to have them in school, [because they] can’t learn if they’re not in school,” Archie Freeman said. “We worked with stakeholders to make sure that we provided what was needed based off the times.”

Durham’s southeast region manager explained eliminating double routes will eliminate potential delays.

“We can better adhere to the schedules and the student load on the buses is typically lighter,” Hale Driver said. “It’s easier to manage and things just flow a lot better and it takes the stress of the system.”

Schools across the country faced issues with bus driver shortages last year. Durham reports it has a full team of 120 drivers and 64 bus aides for RCPS.

“We do have drivers assigned to every route and we do have some substitute drivers that are lined up ready to go,” Driver said.

The company also increased the minimum pay from $18 an hour to $21 an hour to retain drivers throughout the school year.

“We have a pretty healthy pipeline right now and we’re anticipating that we’re going to be able to add three to five more drivers within the first two weeks of school,” Driver said.

Freeman explained getting kids to and from school safely is a priority.

“We know that the morning is very important to any child, especially when they’re getting up early in the morning and going into school,” Freeman said. “We want that day to start off well so they have an excellent day.”

Officials emphasized families with younger and special needs students can help prevent delays by being ready for bus pickup.

“Please make sure you are there to greet your student when they arrive off the bus,” Freeman said. “Anything that hinders that may cause a delay in other students getting home, it is just a chain effect.”

Parents can download the Durham Bus Tracker app to see where exactly their children’s buses are and if there are going to be any delays.

School officials want to remind families to be patient during the first few weeks, as everyone is on a new schedule and there may be normal traffic delays.