Durham School Services said a company representative will address the Roanoke School Board on Tuesday amid scrutiny of its performance.
School board members had tasked the company last month with creating a plan to better communicate with parents and guardians affected by late buses. The company, in its first year as transportation provider for Roanoke City Public Schools, has faced public criticism for its performance.
Meanwhile, Durham sent Roanoke its first invoices on Sept. 23 and Sept. 30. The bills — totaling approximately $545,000 — only cover August and include nine regular school days, midday runs, after-school activities and a day of summer school and orientation. The charges also include daily fees for bus aides and about $10,000 in startup costs.
The Roanoke Times received a copy of the invoices through a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request.
Durham charges Roanoke a daily rate of $252.52 per bus route. When a route is not covered, Durham is penalized 50% of the daily rate. Because the company does not have enough drivers to cover all routes, it must send buses on “double runs,” leading to delays.
Between Aug. 20 and Aug. 30, the company was penalized about $22,000.
A Durham spokesman said Thursday the company still needs about 10 to 20 drivers, though it has some potential employees in training.
The company said it’s working to fill vacancies and improve services, and announced a new incentive last week for new hires in Roanoke — a $2,500 sign-on bonus. The incentive is available to qualified drivers through Oct. 18. New drivers had been eligible for a signing bonus of up to $1,000, according to Durham.
A company spokesman said Durham offered the original bonuses to all hires, including drivers who previously worked for Roanoke City Public Schools’ former contractor, Mountain Valley Transportation. All drivers retained from Mountain Valley were scheduled to receive their signing bonus Friday, the spokesman said.
The new, $2,500 bonus will be paid to employees over the course of a year, according to the company.
Staffing levels have been insufficient despite Durham’s recruitment and advertising efforts. In addition to signing bonuses, the company said it also offers an employee referral bonus of $1,000. The company has advertised jobs in local media, online and on signs posted across the city.
Durham’s staffing problems are similar to issues facing other companies and school systems across the U.S. Analysts point to competition and economic conditions as factors in a nationwide school bus driver shortage.
In Roanoke, Durham offers starting pay of $17 per hour for a minimum of four hours per day, and limited health care coverage, paid holidays and retirement savings matching.
Candidates interested in working for Durham can apply online at durhamschoolservices.com or by calling (540) 970-3000.
A Durham spokesman said the company has filled at least one vacancy in Roanoke: general manager of local operations. The manager is scheduled to start in Roanoke Oct. 21, according to the company.
The Roanoke School Board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at William Fleming High.