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It’s only been a week since the York County School Division promised to improve its bus scheduling and parents say they already see a difference.
They say the school division has made great progress in addressing the shortage of bus drivers, late buses, and “doubling” of routes.
The school division is working on the issue, including temporarily adding an extra dispatcher to the transportation office to improve communications with parents, spokeswoman Katherine Goff said. The division says it will continue to seek clear guidance from the York County School Board and county officials for funding long-term solutions, including perhaps bumping up drivers’ pay.
That’s good news for Mary Jo Douglas, the mother of three sons previously highlighted in a story WYDaily published earlier this month. Their buses sometimes were late or did not come at all. Her children often missed class and breakfast as a result.
Now Douglas says her children have been getting to school consistently on time, adding only time will tell if the changes are permanent.
Area resident Buffie Tipton is much happier this week as she has seen changes she feels makes her daughter safer every morning.
Tipton was concerned the county schools were violating national safety standards with the “doubling” of the routes, but said recently she’s glad the practice has become rarer.
The division has proposed two amendments to superintendent Victor Shandon’s budget for fiscal year 2018, including $133,000 in additional funding to bump bus drivers and dispatchers pay grade up one notch from grade 10 to grade 11, according to division documents.
The grade 10 pay scale offers a pay range between $24,643 and $38,015. The grade 11 offers a pay range between $25,869 and $39,907. The proposed funding will increase the base pay for new bus drivers by $1,226 annually, Goff said.
An additional $4,500 in proposed funding will increase substitute bus drivers’ hourly pay from $12 to $12.25, according to proposed expenditure from the budget addendum.
Goff said a continuing challenge for the division will be the additional shortage of bus drivers when there is a high absentee rate. Some bus routes need bus assistants on board. Sometimes when a lot of drivers are out sick, some remaining drivers become the required bus assistants.
Both of these amendments are expected to go before the York County School Board for a vote.
York County Administrator Neil Morgan, a former teacher in Newport News, recommended to fully fund the proposed budgetary amendments.
“I understand that the Superintendent’s proposed adjustments regard new information on revenues from non-county sources and internal reallocations,” Morgan said. “I am not expecting him to ask the County for additional funds beyond my recommendation to fully fund his initial, formal request.”
Tipton said she’s glad the practices of doubling the buses is becoming more uncommon since last week, but the changes will have to be permanent to win her over.
“I can only hope that they stand by their word,” Tipton said. “I’m sure if they don’t the kids will let us know.”