DINWIDDIE, Va. (WWBT) – Two months into the school year, parents like Ray Hawkins say he could be the exception when it comes to his experience of bus transportation issues in county public schools by Dinwiddie.
“My kids show up on time and the buses aren’t late,” Hawkins said. “But from what I hear, the county has buses running late every day.”
Hawkins, like many parents, said he received automated phone calls from schools whenever there were delays in bus transportation. The school system said it has officially launched its system-wide Versatrans My Stop Bus Tracking system after going through a trial phase of the app last spring. However, the app’s operating difficulties and transportation shortages have resulted in the frustration of many parents who rely on the services.
In response, the school system issued an apology via its Facebook page.
“Like school divisions across the country, public schools in Dinwiddie County are facing a shortage of bus drivers. While this situation is not unique to our school system, we are aware of its impact on student transportation schedules and the inconvenience for our families, ”the school system said in a statement.
Many parents responded to the post with anger and frustration that the app is not working for them. Dinwiddie Superintendent Kari Weston said the app was working well, but had issues operating in rural areas.
“Some of the issues have to do with areas of the county where connectivity is more difficult, and some have to do with replacement drivers, where there are learning curves,” Weston said.
Kari Weston also says the school system is re-examining how they train bus drivers to use the app properly.
“It’s just about using it more frequently and getting used to the process of using it and turning it on every day; so it really has more to do with training and replacement drivers and things of that nature, ”Weston said.
A parent says that students who take the bus are supposed to receive a student ID card with a barcode that can be scanned into the bus tracker app. This allows each student to be counted and tracked through the app. One parent says that only two of his four children who take the bus received the ID card. Weston says students who do not have ID should receive them soon from their principals.
“Some principals keep the cards until they can give them to all the students. We expect these to arrive this week. Weston said. “There are card printers in every school, so replacement cards are always available. “
Despite the issues, Weston said the county will continue to rely on the bus app, calling it a “good form of communication” because of the ability it gives parents in real time to know where they are. their children.
“It’s the right tool, but we just have to overcome these challenges,” Weston said. “In the meantime, we will continue to make automated calls to let families know when the buses will be late; we’ve always done it in the morning and afternoon.
Additionally, Weston says school systems office hours have been extended so parents can call whenever they experience bus delays. Weston says additional support to students through supervision and snacks will also be provided during periods of extended bus delays
Weston says schools in Dinwiddie have also lost 12 bus drivers to resignation, retirement or medical leave unrelated to COVID.
Currently, Weston says the school system’s transportation director is training a new cohort of bus drivers to fill critical positions. Weston says training can typically take between 15 and 30 days before these drivers are able to transport students to and from the school. Weston says they are also considering rehiring 16 of their part-time retired bus drivers to help fill transportation gaps.
She says the county is discussing higher pay as an option to retain drivers as well as to entice new drivers to join forces. In total, Dinwiddie Schools currently have around 65 active bus drivers operating its 507 square mile county.
The next county school board meeting will be on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. A closed-door meeting will begin at 2 p.m., followed by a regular session at 4 p.m., which is open to the public.
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