Dear Editor, 

FCPS School Board must be held accountable to take action immediately!  

If you’re travelling anywhere in Fairfax County during the a.m. you may have noticed what seems like hoards of children standing for potentially hours at bus stops along the main roads and side streets.  You are not imagining this -- we are ALL the victims of the FCPS non-solution of assigning «Double Back» routes to bus drivers and causing our young kids to stand on the street for often more than AN HOUR in the mornings, or causing THOUSANDS (yes, literally ~2,600 impacted kids DAILY!!) of families to hit the streets to drive their kids to school unexpectedly leading to even more traffic delays in our area, not to mentioned unplanned absences from work for working parents.  

Take a look at the posted FCPS website for just today.

https://busdelay.fcps.edu/

On one representative day there were 52 buses delayed in the morning and ~35 delayed that afternoon -- a majority due to «double back» as printed on their site.  Some of the busses are listed as over an HOUR late picking the kids up.  With ~50 kids per route on these 52 buses daily, that’s 2,600 Fairfax County families impacted, and the safety of our children and drivers put at risk EVERY DAY! 

What is a “double back” you ask? That’s when the county doesn’t have enough bus drivers and so the drivers they have need to pick up one route and then “double back” to drive a 2nd route.  By definition, one group of lucky kids get to school on time -- or even early -- oops, SURPRISE your child missed the bus because it came 10 minutes early today.  Then another whole route of kids (remember this is up to 2,600 of them DAILY) get to school significantly late / tardy.  Missing tests or lessons, and causing stress to these children and teachers.

Are the impacted parents and students notified about the known and scheduled “double backs”? -- NO!  You need to go to that website every morning (if you haven’t figured that out yet) and check to see if you might need to bring your kids to school today -- or maybe let them sleep in an extra hour? :-)

When I called the FCPS Transportation office, the poor woman who answered the phone said they have been telling the School Board all year that this is a CRISIS but the school board had ignored them, and refused to notify parents of this on-going issue and how it would be impacting all of us systemically.  In her words “they just want to sugar-coat this and hope that it will go away.”

This is completely unacceptable and no tax-paying business person in Fairfax County would run any organization this way.  If you can’t hire the people to get the required job done, examine the salaries you are paying and see if they are market competitive.  Perhaps you need to provide a bonus incentive for completing the Class B Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirement, needed to operate a bus.  That bonus could be payable at the end of the 1st full school year after driving with an acceptable attendance record.  Maybe each of our 13 elected school board members should get their Class B CDL themselves and contribute to the solution by getting behind the wheel of a bus every morning and afternoon until the problem is resolved!  

This isn’t rocket science, people.  Let’s get a little creative with our already exorbitant tax dollars.  No matter how many Bonds and referendums we vote on and have to pay to make the schools better -- it’s not going to matter if the kids can’t even get there safely to learn.  After more than a year at home with no school on Mondays, our kids still can’t get the education they deserve with forced tardiness built into the school board’s transportation “plan” for 2021-22.  

Please, parents and residents, contact the FCPS School Board at their website and demand they prioritize fixing this issue immediately -- for the safety of our kids and roads. 

https://www.fcps.edu/school-board/school-board-members  

Marybeth Wootton

Fairfax County

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