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Stressed school bus driver: ‘People are going nuts because we’re late’

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- School leaders in Chesterfield County are calling on transportation department officials to fix continuing issues with school buses that started with the new school year.

For more than a month, the CBS 6 Problem Solvers have been sharing frustrated parents' concerns with late buses, dozens of driver absences each day and an uptick in school bus breakdowns.

Chesterfield County Public Schools have been grappling with a number of school bus issues since the new school year began in September.

What to do about fixing the county's bus woes is a subject with no shortage of opinions from parents, students and bus drivers.

For six years, Sheryl Lunato has been building relationships with the children that ride her bus to school every day.

“I have driven some of these kids since they were in sixth grade and some since high school," Lunato said. "I watched them graduate. I still stay in touch with those who have gone off to college. They are my kids."

"I have 70 kids on my bus," veteran driver Sheryl Lunato said.

"I have 70 kids on my bus," veteran driver Sheryl Lunato said.

Lunato said her  job as a bus driver has been rewarding at times, but that with the current driver shortage and countywide bus issues, things have become challenging.

“It is stressful, especially with my high school kids. I have 70 kids on my bus. I feel bad for my kids. My bus is overcrowded and there’s nothing I can do,” she added.

Some Chesterfield parents believe that  in addition to the bus driver shortage, the change in school start times implemented this year led to a domino effect, which means late buses and drivers having to do double and triple runs.

“With the traffic going on and all the construction and everything, then you’re late. People are going nuts because we’re late,” Lunato explained.

At a recent school board meeting, members questioned Chesterfield transportation officials about the rampant bus issues, urging them to fix things as soon as possible.

Pay scale for school bus drivers by district in Metro Richmond.

Pay scale for school bus drivers by district in Metro Richmond.

Board members learned that recruitment, bus driver retention and low pay remain huge challenges for the district.

“Most of us work two jobs because we can’t afford the cost of living, our houses or anything, on $14.41 an hour," Lunato said.

A pay scale comparison shared with the school board shows Chesterfield bus driver starting at $14.41 an hour with two other counties paying less —Henrico and Hanover. Drivers in Hopewell and Richmond make $15 and up.

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