Chesterfield parents frustrated with school bus delays: ‘It’s going to affect the kids’

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Only two days into the new school year and some Chesterfield County parents are frustrated with the long bus delays for students.

Some parents told the CBS 6 Problem Solvers that they are trying to stay patient, knowing with 45,000 bus riders and 7,500 bus stops, there will be some hiccups.

Kelly Rieder, whose kids attend Winterpock and Spring Run Elementary schools, said her experience Tuesday was overwhelming, especially after the morning pickup.

“I was thankful my child’s Winterpock bus was only 25 minutes late, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for those working parents who then have to get their child to school and they’re relying on that transportation."

She said one son got home well after 5:30 p.m.

School officials said all along parents should expect delays as bus drivers get settled into their routes, something that’s normal during the first week of school.

But Rieder, and other parents believe too many others are experiencing the same frustration.

“Our late bell rings at 9:20 in the morning and you have a bus that hasn’t even been to pick up students at almost 11:00,” said Rieder. “That can’t bode well for the school day for teacher being able to get thing done on time, it’s going to affect the instruction and it’s going to affect the kids.”

“A friend of mine, her daughter is special needs at Manchester and her bus hasn’t shown up either day in the morning,” said another mom who asked not to be identified.

She said her son’s Spring Run Elementary school bus was late both mornings and he and other students were still at school an hour after dismissal while she waited at the bus stop.

“An hour after dismissal I had not heard a word or sat eyes on my fifth grader,” she continued. “To not let us know for an hour what’s going on is absolutely inexcusable.”

Parents said they just wanted the school system to be aware of their frustration and give them clearer answers on how the issues will be resolved.

In a letter to Bermuda District families Wednesday, Interim Superintendent Donald Fairheart apologized for this week’s delays, saying “our performance in certain parts of Chesterfield County this week has not been acceptable.”

Fairheart said the issues the county has faced this week are greater than in years past.

“We remain committed to doing better and meeting your expectations for the safe and timely arrival and dismissal of students,” he wrote.

The rest of the letter read:

“The school division currently has 30 vacant bus driver positions (13 of which occurred last week). All but nine of those vacancies are currently being covered by substitutes or retired drivers. Our Human Resources team has been focused throughout the summer on recruiting additional drivers. More than 10 new drivers are expected to complete training this week and will be assigned bus routes immediately. This should help hasten the pickup and dismissal processes at some Bermuda District schools.

Finally, my leadership team is working with principals to enhance communication regarding late morning pickups and buses that depart late in the afternoon. For the time being, principals have been directed to communicate with parents if a bus will be more than 15 minutes late and when all buses have departed for the day. Because we are still collecting parent contact information and inputting that into our parent notification system, our principals will need to communicate with the entire school population regarding delays. Please check every message carefully to see if your child is impacted by the notice.

As I noted last weekend, the high expectations that you have for us are not unnoticed, nor are they taken lightly. We are doing everything within reason to maintain the trust you have had in us regarding the safe and timely delivery of your children to and from school.”

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