Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42

City OKs raises for bus drivers
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Dec 16, 2013, 13:06

HOPEWELL — School bus drivers in Hopewell will soon see an increase in their paychecks. At the school Board meeting on Thursday night, the board unanimously decided to change the pay grade of the drivers in the division. The board also approved changes to the traffic pattern at Patrick Copeland Elementary School, which will begin in the new year. 

T. Patrick Barnes, supervisor of operations for Hopewell City Public Schools, said a “soft salary” survey was done of surrounding localities and Hopewell came up as noticeably lower than other districts. 

“Resolved, upon the recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools, that the starting salary grade for bus drivers be and hereby amended as follows: from Grade 5 to Grade 8.” This pay grade changes the salary of bus drivers from $9.70 to $12.22 an hour. Part of the reason for the pay increase was due to the vacancies that exist within the transportation department. 

After the board unanimously voted to increase the pay grade, a round of applause was given from a couple bus drivers that were in attendance at the meeting. 

This pay increase comes a month after Dr. John Fahey, superintendent of Hopewell City Public Schools, announced at the board meeting last month that a shortage of bus drivers is causing problems in the division, such as getting students to and from school on time. 

“We are the lowest paid of bus drivers anywhere around here and some places by far,” Fahey said last month. “It’s just a real dilemma that I’ve got to solve and if I don’t solve it, I don’t really have a good school year.” 

School Board member Larry Joyner expressed his disdain during that same meeting for the salary of bus drivers in Hopewell, not showing any amount of surprise for the shortage. 

“No wonder we’re not getting anybody,” Joyner had said. 

The School Board also unanimously voted to hire another driver at the meeting Thursday evening. 

Another transportation issue that was brought up during November’s meeting was also resolved at the meeting Thursday night. The traffic pattern at Patrick Copeland Elementary School will change on the first of the year when students return after the holiday break. 

“We just want to change where our parents come in to drop off kids and I think this is something that may be long overdue based on what we’ve encountered this year,” Fahey said. 

The locations of where parents drop off their children and where the buses enter the school will switch. Fahey said this eases congestion problems as well as eliminates some safety concerns. 

Barnes confirmed that with the congestion, buses can end up sitting in traffic for 10 minutes or more, causing students to be late to school. 

For the change to take effect, a piece of sidewalk at the school has to be removed, which Fahey said the city has agreed to rebuild the sidewalk provided the school division supplies the materials, and the arrows will be repainted to reflect the new traffic pattern. 

Fahey said this change is about efficiency, safety and making sure students get to class on time. 

“There’s congestion there in the morning with parents dropping off their kids,” Fahey said. “This is just a real quick fix to eliminate traffic flow problems.” 

Fahey also noted the change will not effect any of the roads in the city. He said it will only affect how buses are being brought into the school and where parents come in to drop off their children. 

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