Roanoke City Public Schools discuss transportation solutions

One recommendation is to change the start times for all elementary, middle and high schools

ROANOKE, Va. – Transportation issues for Roanoke Public Schools continue to be an issue that’s gone on for years.

People started noticing issues with buses back in 2019 when the district teamed up with Durham School Services to help provide the transportation.

At the time 10 News spoke with, at the time, the company’s vice president, John Ziegler. He has since changed positions to the Director of Business Development.

“We are at 90%. We strive to be at 110% so we’re continuing to hire,” Ziegler said in the 2019 interview.

Just two months ago, 10 News addressed transportation issues. At a school board meeting in October, Durham relayed the same message.

“We’re going to keep hiring more. We will never stop hiring bus drivers you can never have enough,” Ziegler said.

The company has hired more drivers, yet there still is a lot of inconsistency with buses being delayed.

On Thursday afternoon, the school board came together for a work session to discuss solutions and hear recommendations to address the issue.

One of the things they focused on during the meeting was a change in start times.

Operations Director for Roanoke City Public Schools, Chris Perkins, said by shifting start times, the students should all be able to get to class on time.

“Change is difficult and if we don’t address it, we will continue the status quo and we will continue an inequity and we cannot have that,” Perkins said.

Currently, all high schools and middle schools start their days at 8:45 a.m. The elementary schools start their days at 7:45 a.m.

There were two options on the table at Thursday’s discussion. Both of them included the elementary schools – except Highland Park, Hurt Park, Round Hill, and Garden City – to start at 7:15 a.m.

The first option would have the middle schools and the other four elementary schools start their days at 8:15 a.m. The high schools would start at 9:15 a.m. The second option would be reversing the two.

Some board members liked the idea of having high school earlier because of after-school activities and perhaps the students have work they need to get to.

Overall though, there were a lot of questions and concerns.

“I am not in favor of students not being in class. Now we’re going to impact 14,000 students because every single school time will change,” board member Franny Apel said.

Superintendent Verletta White understands there is no solution that will please every member, parent, or student. She is more focused on things being consistent.

“Our main job is teaching and learning. We cannot do that successfully with the inconsistencies we have right now,” White said.

The school board did not vote on anything at the work session. They have their regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18 where a vote is likely.

About the Author:

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.