Roanoke County Schools need bus drivers, bus aides, and HVAC technicians

By Debbie Adams

Members of the Roanoke County School Board spent most of their work session on September 1 discussing staffing issues.

The day program task force which is working to provide care for students in grades 3-6 on the days when they are not in school in person is ready for operations—the main need is staff to man the programs developed by the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia. RCPS has been working with local non-profits to facilitate these programs.

Task force co-director Nancy Hans from the Prevention Council for Roanoke County and Special Education Supervisor Sharon Sheppard said that while the task force is working diligently to attract students to the programs, there have been some problems with parents completing the paperwork needed for students to register.

The United Way offers a simple Smart2Start program (go to smart2start.org) to enable families to access and apply for all programs available in the area—with “one stop shopping.” Money is available for tuition assistance. Contact the YMCA at https://ymcavbr.org/main/employment/ for information on employment in the programs.

School Board Chair Mike Wray says he has been surprised that more parents have not expressed an interest in the day programs thus far, although it is still early in the school year.

According to RCPS Director of Facilities and Operations, Mark Kitta, the school system currently has a backlog of nearly 150 orders for HVAC services at various schools. They are aggressively searching for more HVAC technicians. (Go to www.rcps.us/jobs for more information.)

Human Resources Director Jim Bradshaw reported that overtime hours have been approved for current HVAC employees. The department is working to ensure that RCPS has competitive salaries, including compensation for current employees. They have been advertising positions on Facebook, purchased magnets to be placed on maintenance vehicles advertising openings, and contracted with the Lamar electric billboard company to place ads throughout the area. Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Ken Nicely, describes these positions as an “acute need.”

The transportation department needs more bus drivers and bus aides. They are considering substantial signing bonuses to recruit more of these valued employees and retention bonuses for current employees. Vinton’s representative to the School Board was quite vocal about the need to reinstate benefits for bus drivers which were ended several years ago due to budget constraints.

Dr. Rhonda Stegall, Executive Director of Administration, reported a current enrollment of 13,321 students in Roanoke County Schools. The school system has gained 107 formerly private school students and 21 homeschooled students as of September 1. Withdrawals this year include 100 students who have moved to private schools and 130 who have switched to homeschooling.

The current 100% online enrollment is 1,348 at the elementary school level, 881 in middle school, and 1,196 at the high school level for a total of 3,425 students. Of those in high school, 224 are in the acclaimed RCPS Online Academy. Those numbers reflect that 25.4% of students have opted for virtual learning this school year.

Dr. Nicely once again expressed his gratitude for a smooth opening week of school, considering “all the things that could have gone wrong.” He emphasized that the reopening plan adopted by RCPS is flexible and will allow for changes as the year progresses. He also urged the community to support the schools by wearing masks and observing social distancing and other health guidelines.

Roanoke County Public Schools transportation employee Eric Kirby uses a backpack sprayer with Virex solution to sanitize one of the buses at the Vinton bus lot. The buses are sanitized thoroughly in this manner once a day every day, as well as being sprayed by drivers between runs–“to make sure the students are safe, the drivers are safe, everyone is safe.”

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