Chesterfield parents, bus drivers, describe low morale as county works to fill 30 vacancies

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Some Chesterfield parents say there's still confusion and frustration over transportation issues as the third full day of the  school year comes to an end.

Stories of late morning pickups and students dropped off at bus stops around dinner time are still being shared in neighborhoods and on social media.

"My son hasn’t gotten homework, but when he does I don’t know how I’ll accomplish that with him getting home at 5:00 or 5:30 as double back buses and all the problems continue," mom Kelly Rieder said.

Jennifer Baber agreed that it has been a bit overwhelming for the kids.

"They are aggravated. It has been a long day for them. They don’t know what time they are being picked up and they don’t know what time they’re getting home. That’s always an issue," Baber explained.

Both moms say an email from the interim superintendent acknowledged the delays and issues faced this week are bigger than in years past and are unacceptable. He explained that the school division has thirty vacant bus driver positions.

Thirteen of those drivers quit a week before school.

"What causes thirteen people to quit at the last minute? I don’t know how you fix it, but I do know that from a management standpoint, if you have a mass exodus that means something is happening above to cause that and the county is not answering those questions," Rieder said.

Some current Chesterfield bus drivers who contacted CBS 6 said that morale is low. They said start time changes meant more drivers were needed, but the shortage from last year spilled over into this year.

All of the drivers requested to speak off camera, saying they wanted to avoid jeopardizing their jobs. They told CBS 6 the thirteen drivers who quit did so because of low pay and frustration with top transportation management decisions.

Like some parents, those bus drivers blame delays on the new routing system. They don't believe it accounts for traffic, construction or late passengers.

The drivers also confirmed the overcrowding issue that parents have been talking about, with one driver saying she carried nearly seventy students on her bus during each run this week. Some of them had to sit on the floor because they couldn't fit on a seat, and with no air conditioning on her bus, she knows it has been difficult for everyone.

Another driver says many veteran drivers had their long time routes taken from them and given away. She believes that also impacts arrival times because it takes time for a new driver to get acclimated to a new route.

According to the interim superintendent's email, thirty vacancies need to be filled. - but current bus drivers believe they need even more to fix the issues seen this week.

School division spokesperson Shawn Smith says the transportation department is seeing significant improvement. Now, the focus will be on the bus routes that are still dealing with delays.

Currently more than ten bus drivers will complete training this week and be given a route immediately.

County officials say they are relying on 21 substitute and retired bus drivers to fill the gap right now.