Starting Monday, “all drivers and attendant[s] will be required to run their routes twice a week to sharpen your driving skills,” reads an email Wednesday from an administrator to a team of drivers at a Fairfax County high school. “If you are unable to perform this task . . . you must put in for leave.”
The email, obtained by The Washington Post, says this kind of route-running will continue “until we go back to school.” Fairfax on Tuesday started the school year fully online for its 189,000 students, although the school system is hoping to bring back small groups — including preschool-age autistic students and English language learners — to the classroom in coming weeks.
Fairfax schools spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said the district is pursuing “many sorts of plans” to keep bus drivers active and employed, including asking some to deliver breakfasts and lunches to students every day. She said bus drivers recently filled out a survey that asked them to list their skills and abilities, and that human resources and transportation staff are “working on matching these skills to tasks that need to be handled.”
Asked how many high schools are asking bus drivers to re-trace their old routes for practice, Caldwell said, “All drivers are expected to complete a driver refresher session and this is one way to do that.” The school system employs roughly 1,200 drivers, whose pay starts at $19.20 an hour.
“FCPS bus drivers are continuously training to keep their driving skills sharp,” she said. “At some point, schools will resume and this is important.”
In a mid-August message to staff, Fairfax superintendent Scott Brabrand promised that the school district would not furlough any of its bus drivers or food service employees during the 2020-2021 school year. Drivers would return to work Aug. 25, he wrote.
“Many of you may be asked to deliver meals to specific locations or along designated bus routes,” Brabrand wrote. “For drivers not involved in food delivery, we will provide alternative work assignments such as light facilities maintenance, student support, or delivering books and supplies to schools.”
He continued: “You will be paid for your regular scheduled hours as long as you perform the duties as assigned to you.” Brabrand made no mention of the possibility of some drivers following bus routes just to practice their skills.