A woman with a lanyard stands in a classroom speaking to multiple students sitting at desks.
Charlottesville City Schools has banned cell phone usage in the classroom. Credit: Credit: Zack Wajsgras, The Daily Progress

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Friday, Aug. 18, 2023

School starts again next Wednesday in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and there are a handful of changes this year that parents and students will need to manage. First, neither district has enough bus drivers again this year to get all their kids to school. Between the two divisions, more than 3,000 students have been denied bus seats.

Charlottesville has as many as 2,000 of those kids. Around 1,100 to 1,300 live in areas close enough to their respective schools to be considered “walk zones,” according to a City Schools spokesperson. Like last year, all kids living in those designated walk zones are ineligible for district bus service. The city has another 723 kids living outside the walk zones who were placed on a waitlist.

In Albemarle County, there are another 1,000 kids who won't get a bus to school, Chief Operating Officer Rosalyn Schmitt told School Board members at their Aug. 10 meeting.

A child with a pink backpack waves goodbye to someone off camera as she walks toward a yellow school bus.

Just weeks before the school year begins, 1,000 Albemarle County children are booted from bus routes

For the districts to provide buses to all the students who asked for them, they'll need to hire more drivers quickly. But it's unclear what their plans are.

Albemarle County Public Schools gave parents just two weeks notice if their children would not have a bus. Officials have repeatedly declined to answer our questions about how this happened or what their plans are for the rest of the year.

In Charlottesville, school officials have worked on plans to make students' walks to school safer, but school buses are run by Charlottesville Area Transit. And CAT leaders have declined or did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

Charlottesville and Albemarle are not the only school divisions struggling to hire enough bus drivers. Since the pandemic, districts all over the country have failed to hire or retain enough drivers to get kids to school. You can read more about the national issue in this USA Today article published Tuesday.

A woman with a lanyard stands in a classroom speaking to multiple students sitting at desks.
Charlottesville City Schools has banned cell phone usage in the classroom. Zach Wajsgras/Daily Progress

Another important change specifically for Charlottesville City Schools this year: Students will no longer be allowed to use cell phones during school. They must keep them stored. And there are some very specific consequences if they're caught using them, from a teacher taking the phone to parents being asked to take their child home. You can read more about the specific rules in this CBS19 article.

And finally a bit of good news. School lunches are now free at all Charlottesville schools! Families will no longer have to apply for the free and reduced lunch program. What's more, the division said that any family with an outstanding balance from last year's lunch program will be covered. The Daily Progress has more information in this article.

A purple box with a stylized cut-out image of a wooden sign that reads "Burnley-Moran School"
Credit: Illustration/Dexter Auction

Renaming History: A conversation about the names we give our institutions

Want to keep talking about local schools? Join us Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library Central Branch in downtown Charlottesville for a conversation of how both Albemarle County and Charlottesville are renaming local schools. We're pleased to partner with the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society for this event.

I hope to see you there!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Dexter Auction's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at [email protected]! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a [email protected].