Amid shortage, driver who allegedly crashed bus kept on staff at York County Schools

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(Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)
(Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)

A York County school bus driver is still an employee of York County School Division after rear-ending a vehicle while driving a bus with students on board, according to a spokesperson for YCSD.

The driver, Raymond Bliss of Yorktown, allegedly rear-ended a vehicle at the intersection of Big Bethel Road and Victory Boulevard Wednesday, causing the rear-ended vehicle to strike the vehicle in front of it.

Eleven students were on board the bus at the time of the accident, and five students were examined and treated on scene by York County Fire & Life Safety, according to Virginia State Police spokesperson Sgt. Michelle Anaya. An investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.

Bliss, a division employee since 2013, was charged with reckless driving. He is not being paid and will retain his employment until a panel convenes to offer a recommendation to Supt. Victor Shandor, according to Katherine Goff, spokesperson for YCSD.

Options available to Shandor include terminating Bliss’ employment, putting him on desk duty until the matter is decided in court, putting him on unpaid leave until the matter is decided in court, or ordering him to take a refresher course in school bus safety, according to division regulations.

The incident came just two days after York County School Division officials met to sort out a shortage of bus drivers. It also came on the heels of recent parental complaints and concerns about the division’s bus service, including lateness and overcrowding.

Earlier this month, Goff told WYDaily the division has 126 daily bus routes, serving roughly 12,700 students. Those 126 routes are driven by an average of 149 bus drivers including substitutes, when fully staffed. 

The division has proposed two amendments to Shandor’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 in a previous interview.

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.

The division also experienced a shortage of bus drivers in 2014.

As for passenger safety, York County school bus drivers receive more safety training than the state requires, Goff said, including annual professional in-service days for all transportation staff; drivers are also encouraged to participate in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s “Bus Roadeo.”

The division’s regulations also address student safety and driver training.

“Properly trained school bus drivers are essential to safe school bus operations,” the manual says. “Accordingly, the division superintendent shall provide a continuing training program for school bus drivers that satisfies not only Department of Education regulations on student transportation but also ensures drivers are proficient in dealing with the range of circumstances in and outside of school buses that affect the safe transportation of students.”

Separately, Shandor released a statement after the accident stressing student welfare.

“Our first priority is the well-being of all involved,” Shandor said. “We appreciate the York Fire and Life Safety personnel, state police and division staff who responded to the scene to provide assistance. I have been in contact with school administrators throughout the day to check on the well-being of the students involved.”

Bliss has no incidents reported in General District Court in the following localities: York County, Williamsburg-James City County, Newport News, Hampton and Norfolk.

WYDaily archives were used for this article.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the York County Schools superintendent as Victor Shandon.