FCPS Faces Bus Driver Shortage

Zainab Rentia, News Editor

Students board busses for the ride home.                         Photo by Jada Bromberg.

Students amble up the well-worn steps, heads buried in phones or enthusiastically talking with friends. As they enter the bus to go home, they are immediately hit with the sounds of loud talking and chewing. Students then awkwardly try to navigate the narrow aisle, accidentally touching the other bus riders who are sitting three to a seat. In the back of the bus, some students resign themselves to a long ride ahead, resting against the windows and popping in their earbuds. This unpleasant scene is only exacerbated by the recent FCPS bus driver shortage.

Although at the beginning of every year schools are often short-staffed on bus drivers, this year has been much worse, in part because of COVID-19. “It’s normal for bus drivers to retire, however, with COVID there are more and… like in the rest of the job industry there are fewer people willing to fill those empty positions,” says Amanda Burke, an Assistant Principal at Woodson.

Mrs. Burke then explained that many bus drivers are retirees, the age group that has been most affected by COVID, so many do not want to risk being exposed to crowded buses leading to even more shortages.

Photo courtesy of Tyson’s Reporter.

In order to make up for this shortfall, FCPS has been encouraging parents to drive/carpool or for students to walk to school instead of taking the bus. Also, the bus drivers who remain are sometimes doing multiple routes back to back. However, this inconveniences the students, forcing them to wake up earlier or return home late. Some are forced to wait over half an hour before their bus arrives to drive them home.

The driver shortage has also brought up the issue of safety. Woodson has continued to follow proper safety protocols such as reminding students to wear their masks over their noses and sanitizing the buses frequently, but many still feel unsafe.

“It has frustrated me because… the buses have become so bad, kids are sitting three to a seat and with COVID still going around, having such jam-packed busses can’t be very good,” junior Maya Burns said. However, Burns added that she understands that FCPS is trying its best in an unprecedented situation.

To resolve this issue, FCPS is employing many strategies to recruit more bus drivers. FCPS is offering a signing bonus of up to $3000, however, this must compete with the similarly high-priced signing bonuses of nearby counties.

“I’ve actually been seeing so many flyers… even commercials on TV!” Mrs. Burke said. “I think they’re really working hard to get the word out.”

They have also been encouraging parents Unfortunately, despite many efforts, it is still unknown when this problem will be solved. “I would love to say when, but like with all job markets during COVID I really don’t know,” Mrs. Burke said. “But Woodson is doing equally as well if not better than other schools in the county.”