BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — Across the country, bus drivers are becoming scarce. The impact of COVID-19 has prolonged the issue in various school systems, including in our region
News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun learned how one Tri-Cities school district is working around the shortage.
Bristol, Virginia Public Schools is down three bus drivers. As the school system anticipates more absences this year due to the coronavirus and the flu, administrators are adding teachers to the fleet of bus drivers.
“We compound that with the fact that we’re really encouraging our employees to stay home if they’re sick,” Bristol Virginia Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan said.
The school system experienced shortage problems Monday.
“Already being three drivers short and we had three drivers who were out sick and so we really had to double and triple up on all of our runs which caused our transportation to have some delays,” Dr. Perrigan said.
Perrigan said, as a result of the shortage, other school employees are being asked to fill-in.
Highland View Elementary physical education teacher Randall Hodge said: “I’m a certified athletic trainer in sports medicine for the Bristol, Virginia Public School system and a school bus driver for the Bristol, Virginia Public School system.”
Hodge’s work day has now turned into a 12-hour shift.
“I never want to leave a man down. Our administration asked me if I would drive a bus, and I’ve always felt obliged to take care of our school system, and take care of my students at my school, as well as the middle school and high school,” Hodge said.
Hodge usually misses his first class of the morning, but he said his colleagues have committed to helping take care of his students while he is away.
“Our administration, along with our teaching staff- our music teacher, Sara Kate Tallman- she helps me out on Monday’s and Tuesday’s. Molly Boyle from the high school comes over and assists with my classes until I get here,” Hodge said.
Now, the district working to fill positions.
“We are going to have a job fair,” Dr. Perrigan told Kassahun. “At Virginia High School, we’ll be set up there the gymnasium to interview folks who either already have a CDL (Commercial Drivers’ License) or we actually have in-house training that we’re able to provide if someone is interested in obtaining a CDL.”
A career fair will take place Thursday, October 8 at Virginia High School from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The school system has positions like bus drivers, cafeteria employees, and substitute teachers available.
According to the district’s director of human resources, the district has a bus driver referral program. An current employee in the school system could receive a $250 bonus if they refer a candidate and he/she remains employed with the school division for a period of at least six months. The referral sheet can be found in the PDF below:
“If you are interested in helping us as a substitute bus driver please contact me as well. We have an excellent training program and would be happy to get you set up and ready to drive for the extra pay,” PHR Program Director of Human Resources and Community Support, Angel Hudson said in an email to staff.