PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – Tommy Gibson is one of several Pittsylvania County Schools mechanics.
He's had to drive a bus eight times this school year because of a lack of substitute bus drivers.
"The most crucial time the mechanics are needed are in the mornings and afternoons while the buses are en route," Gibson said.
In all, mechanics and the district's transportation director, Kenyon Scott, have had to drive 47 bus routes as of Monday.
If all of the mechanics are tied up driving buses, any bus that breaks down will have to wait until a mechanic is done with their route and can respond.
"We haven't run into that exact situation yet, but it has come close," Gibson said
With Pittsylvania County being nearly 1,000 square miles and having over 190 bus routes, there's no telling how long a broken down bus full of kids may be stranded on the side of a road waiting for a mechanic.
"It can worry you, because if you have a busload of kids broke down that you can't get to, especially in inclement weather," Gibson said. "The feeling's pretty much mutual throughout the shop."
Seven substitute bus driver candidates were going through training on Monday.
Scott said the county's sheer size makes having enough substitutes available difficult.
Pittsylvania County is the largest county in the state.
"Even if you have one or two drivers out at a school or a particular location, that's still is quite a drain on the available pool of substitutes. So, you have to have quite a large pool," Scott said.
He pointed out that the district hired 17 new substitute drivers ahead of the school year.
That's two more than the district lost last school year due to substitute drivers being promoted to full-time drivers in order to fill positions.
Scott brought the issue of a lack of substitute bus drivers before the school board a couple of weeks ago.
He said he was not asking for help, he was simply updating the board on the current state of the department.
If you are interested in becoming a substitute bus driver, contact the school district's transportation department at 434-656-1339 or stop by the school board office located at 39 Bank Street in Chatham to pick up an application.