MCPS faces transportation issues due to COVID

Several buses arrived late to Chase City Elementary on the first day of school due to transportation issues including parents dropping children off for the first day even though they were not registered as car riders.

Parents cautioned that there may not be enough drivers for afternoons

Mecklenburg County Public Schools announced early Monday that they are having significant issues in meeting the demand for bus drivers to transport students to and from school this year. This comes as no surprise since the school system previously addressed the shortage following mishaps on the first day of school.

MCPS has already been forced to run an earlier bus route for the middle and high schools this year to mitigate future issues. However, that effort doesn’t seem to have been enough to cover the near 40 bus drivers who left the position due to vulnerability at the start of COVID.

In a Facebook post, and on the homepage, the school system cautioned, “In the coming days, it is possible that we will not have enough drivers to make all of our afternoon bus runs. If/When that happens, the school will notify parents of students who ride that bus that they will need to pick up their student from school that day.” The issue seems to be, that when a current bus driver comes down sick, there isn’t anyone left who can cover their route because of the shortage. Superintendent Nichols shared, “Currently, we have over ten drivers who cannot drive due to testing positive or having to be quarantined. This is the issue.”

Under the post, parents pleaded with the school system to continue offering a virtual option for children whose parents are unable to make adjustments to meet their child’s transportation needs. However, the General Assembly—in signing SB1303 into law—has made it so virtual learning is only available under two circumstances: either in the case that the transmission of COVID-19 within a school building is at a high level or upon the request of such student's parent or guardian. MCPS’s virtual options are for the rest of the school year, not on a day-by day basis, and the signup date for both Virtual Virginia and STRIDE K12 have passed.

Nichols laments, “Last year the Governor forced us to close schools and limit social distancing for health purposes. The result was that most students suffered because they didn't have the advantage of a strong education environment, despite everything we could find to do to support them. This year the General Assembly tried to fix the issue by passing new laws requiring schools be open. But this is very difficult with the shortage of workers and the ongoing impact of the pandemic.”

Nichols also notes that MCPS will not be holding all buses, just the ones whose drivers cannot drive due to issues with COVID and only for the amount of time they must be quarantined and out of action. Each school will do their part to let parents know as soon as possible when this impacts their child’s route to and from school.