Some Chesterfield bus drivers threatening to quit over late notice for required training days

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Some Chesterfield County bus drivers are threatening to quit after just receiving notice that they have mandatory training throughout the month of August.

“We’re upset,” said a 15-year driver who did not want to be identified.

A memo went out to drivers Tuesday notifying them of five days of in-service training. Drivers say four months’ notice is not adequate.

“To just spring this on us?” said the driver. “We need to know ahead of time. It’s common courtesy. I already paid for my plane tickets to go on vacation. It’s set non-refundable.”

The memo sent out by Director of Student Transportation Binford Sloan states, “As summer rapidly is approaching, I want to bring several dates to your attention. The proposed 2019/2020 school bus driver calendar has 202 total days for the contract period. Within those days are 5 days reserved for training throughout the year. Below are the dates that we will reserve before school starts on September 3, 2019.”

Sloan went on to say “As a contracted driver it will be your responsibility to attend training on these dates.”

In years past, drivers say training was held two days at the end of August when their contracts started. They also held an in-service training day in November.

“We’ve been doing it just fine for 30 some years,” said a driver. “Leave it the way it is it worked.”

The Commonwealth requires at least two hours of in-service training prior to the start of the school year and two hours in the second half of the school year.  Four hours is the minimum.

Dozens of drivers took to social media frustrated with what they consider short notice and many posted that they could not attend due to prior summer commitments. Many drivers wrote emails to school board members expressing their concerns. Some even threatened to quit.

“We’re down already and you don’t want to add to it,” said the driver. “They need to wake up! They’re going to wake up and they’re not going to have any drivers.”

“The training dates are in August this year as they have been in years past,” said Chesterfield County School spokesperson Shawn Smith. “If a bus driver has a concern with being able to attend on a certain day, they can contact the transportation department. The training is required but the transportation department will work with any bus driver that might have a specific concern regarding a scheduled day/time.”

CCPS said bus drivers will be paid for training.

“The teachers know the week before school they’re in school,” the driver pointed out. “We need something that is set so we can enjoy our vacations too.”

“I believe that we’re down in the county about 50 drivers which is the same about as the first week of school and we’ve had 300 come through training so what does that tell you... people are leaving,” said the driver.

CBS 6 inquired about vacant bus driver positions but we have not yet received a response.

“When you have veteran drivers, who have just had enough you’re left with one or two year drivers that while they’re skilled at driving the bus they don’t have the experience the veteran drivers have. It’s going to end up being a safety issue. The kids are going to suffer when we lose our veteran drivers,” said the driver.

“A lot of drivers can go out and drive a dump truck and not have the politics of Chesterfield involved with it,” she added.

“I would like for them to re-evaluate it to look it over and say hey, this is not going to work especially because it’s mandatory,” said the driver.

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