UPDATE — Roanoke City School Board heard recommendations Thursday to address ongoing transportation problems.

The issue is being seen by students all over the country as bus driver shortages lead to delayed drop-offs at school and at home.

A transportation work group presented potential measures to the school board, but qualified that every solution comes with its own set of problems.

“None of these come without issues,” warned Chief Operations Officer Chris Perkins.

The workshop was livestreamed and can be watched on the school system’s Facebook page. It includes further explanation of the following Recommendations and Considerations presented to the school board:

  1. Ensure RCPS staff know the processes for working as a bus aide/monitor
  2. Contact local groups for driving assistance
  3. Ensure completion of discipline referrals
  4. Request Durham consider winter break pay
  5. Seek RCPS recruitment help
  6. Request Durham to consider holiday recognition
  7. Collaborate with ESS (Education Staffing & Management Solution) for substitute bus aides
  8. School start/end times
  9. Increase collaborative trainings and employee recognition
  10. Provide more professional development opportunities
  11. Offer RCPS staff referral bonus
  12. Enhance communication to parents/guardians
  13. Plan for English Learners (EL) to stay in their attendance zone
  14. Explore costs and benefits of buying RCPS buses
  15. Expand duties of SSOs
  16. Continue Transportation Work Group
  17. Consider preschool space at each elementary school or creating preschool centers
  18. Transportation Services considerations

Those initial solutions would help employ drivers from within RCPS, as well as hire more new employees. It also addresses the student discipline problem Durham has reported on buses.

As an 8th recommendation, the work group also suggested changing school start times, which they add would require before-school programming.

As the final consideration, the work group also calculated costs of continuing to work with Durham, or self-operating the bus system.

Superintendent Verletta White says the priority has to be getting students back on track after the pandemic disrupted learning.

“That is almost impossible when things are unpredictable, unreliable, and we don’t have consistency in the instructional program,” she said during the workshop. “Our main job is teaching and learning, but we can’t do that with the inconsistencies we have right now.”

Conversation among the board members took into consideration various school programs, students’ sleep schedules, childcare availability, and teachers’ work hours.

“With all respect to contracts, I get contracts are in place, but the contract is not being held up on both ends at this time,” said board member Natasha Saunders of the district’s current deal with Durham. “Our students are not making it to school.”

The board noted that whatever decision they make, Durham still has to agree. Perkins however made it clear, that they are willing to part ways with the transportation provider if need be.

The board will be voting and hearing public comment on Tuesday Dec. 13. They are not voting to terminate their contract with Durham, but on how to proceed next semester, starting Jan. 17.

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The Roanoke City School Board met with the Transportation Work Group to discuss school transportation issues throughout Roanoke on Thursday, Dec. 8.

The Work Group will be bringing forth recommendations including options discussed at the Nov. 14 School Board meeting. The live workshop is available to watch here.

The School Board says they will be accepting feedback on recommendations presented at the workshop. The community can email their feedback to them at info@rcpc.info.

An opportunity for public comments will be available at the School Board meeting at William Fleming High School at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 13.

This is a developing story. WFXR’s Rhian Lowndes will be contributing to this story.