A school-bus accident this week in Virginia Run rattled at least one parent there and resulted in several people being taken to the hospital.
During the school year, children from that neighborhood are bused and not allowed to cross busy Pleasant Valley Road. But for summer school, they either have to cross it on foot to catch the bus taking them to school or be driven by parents.
AND MONDAY at 6:40 a.m., a school bus leaving Virginia Run Elementary with a child on board — en route to picking up other children and taking them to summer school — got into an accident. Fairfax County police say the bus was trying to turn left onto Pleasant Valley from Martins Hundred Drive, but "went through a stop sign and was struck by a 2003 Ford van."
The van, driven by a 32-year-old Manassas man, was carrying five passengers. "All six people in the van were transported to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries," said police spokeswoman Shelley Broderick.
The bus driver, Evelyn Payne, 46, of 10103 Statesboro Court in Manassas, was not injured. However, said Broderick, "She was charged with disregarding a stop sign."
Although, on the surface, this is considered a minor accident, Virginia Run resident Greg Mathieson — whose son is among those having to cross Pleasant Valley to catch a bus to summer school — was upset by it.
"They shouldn't be crossing that road at rush hour," he said. "I called Linda Farbry, the lady in charge of bus transportation, about two weeks ago, about bus safety along Pleasant Valley Road and tried to get some bus stops moved because of the danger."
Mathieson said he was told the school system's normal bus policy didn't extend to summer school. The problem, explained Farbry, FCPS director of transportation, is that, "For summer school, we have much fewer drivers."
She said the school system only runs about 500 buses in summer, compared to some 1,100 during the school year. And just 26,000 students are transported by bus in summer, vs. more than 100,000 during the regular year.
"We can't pick up students at their homes like during the school year," said Farbry. "In summer, we provide only centralized pickup and dropoffs at the feeder schools."
So instead of being picked up on streets near their homes, students attending Bull Run Elementary for summer school are picked up at their regular schools — Virginia Run, Deer Park, Cub Run and Centre Ridge.
"TRANSPORTATION is very limited during the summer," said Farbry. "We just don't have the drivers to do it because it's not full-time work for them in the summer and because many of them want summer off. We are maxed out — we're using everybody we can get our hands on to drive a bus. Some supervisors are even driving buses to fill in."
In Monday's accident, the child on the bus was not hurt. But a few minutes later, lots of children would have been on board and things could have been different, said Mathieson. And the accident was near the crosswalk.
Nonetheless, with such a shortage of summer-school bus drivers, children will continue walking across roads such as Pleasant Valley to catch their buses. Said Farbry: "It's an unfortunate reality that comes up during summer school."