MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Eric Keesecker needs 30 more drivers.

“We walk in every day to a number of factors we have to get through in order to get a bus route covered,” he said. That can mean as many as 25 to 30 routes need coverage each day.

The Director of Transportation for Berkeley County Schools says his department was scrambling Monday to cover those routes ahead of students’ return the next day from their break.

“On Monday, we worked feverishly to get those routes covered,” Keesecker said. “Finally, we determined we weren’t able to do it. We crafted an In-Touch message to go out that evening. What we’d like to see is as early a response as possible (regarding changed bus routes,) however, sometimes we won’t be able to make that determination until the morning of.”

Keesecker says they are usually able to cover with other staff members or through double runs, but this week, some routes had to be canceled.

“We apologize to every family it caused trouble for,” Keesecker says.

He was fully prepared to face a barrage of criticism. “When I came in Tuesday morning, I thought that there was going to be a lot of negativity with this,” he says. “However, I was pleasantly surprised because we started getting phone calls from parents asking , ‘How can we help?’”

“It’s been phenomenal to witness the resolve of our school community,” Keesecker says.

He says one way to help is for neighbors to carpool their kids to school. Another is to sign up and drive.  There will be a bus operator open house on Wednesday, January 19th from 5-7 pm. He said the system covers all expenses and offers a $300 stipend after 25 routes. They’ll talk training, vetting, and compensation for folks looking to step up and serve as bus drivers.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy says he hasn’t seen in his 33 years as an educator.   He thanked families for their patience and says the school system is working to “adjust, be flexible, and provide viable solutions.”

He says canceling transportation this week was “not an action we ever wanted to take.”

During a presentation at a special meeting of the Berkeley County Board of Education Wednesday evening, Dr. Murphy talked about future capital needs aimed at addressing growth in the county and attracting and retaining teachers and staff.

“We are growing, and this area is growing and attracting businesses and families,” Murphy told the Board. “We recognize we also need to enhance our workforce. One, by recruiting and retaining them, but also by developing them. We are going to need your help and support with a very aggressive capital program.”

Murphy’s remarks were also directed toward the Eastern Panhandle legislative delegation ahead of the general session, which gets underway in Charleston next week.