ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Albemarle County Public Schools continues to face a school bus driver shortage, as do many school divisions across the country.

But the ACPS Transportation Services Department is looking to make some improvements for next year to support the on-time arrival of students.

According to a release, these improvements aim to make the bus routes more efficient, prioritize services to those who need them, and provide more predictability for families and staff.

One change will eliminate something called double-backs, which have been used to complete bus routes that do not have a permanent driver assigned to them.

A double-back requires a bus driver to complete their assigned route and then return to cover one that does not have an assigned driver.

The release says that while this tactic has allowed ACPS to ensure that all student passengers have had service this academic year, it also causes scheduling delays, which can reach an hour or more.

In a report to the Albemarle County School Board, the department said 83 percent of all students riding the bus did arrive at their school on time, but that also means that nearly 1,000 students faced delays.

“We all realize the inconveniences that our driver shortage has had on families and their own schedules and the impact this has had on schools, which have gone to great lengths to accommodate students who arrive after the start of the school day,” said Charmane White, Director of Transportation Services. “Unfortunately, we have not seen the increase we hoped for in the number of applications to be a school bus driver, despite such enhancements as raising our bus driver hourly wages to the highest in the region.”

ACPS has been working to recruit bus drivers all year, but officials say the vacancies will likely continue into the next academic year.

The release says the most influential change is already happening, with notices being sent out to all families with students in Albemarle schools asking them to complete a short form indicating whether or not a child will need transportation next year.

All families are asked to respond to this as soon as possible, even if their child will not need service. The deadline to do so is June 30.

If a family requests bus service after June 30, the student will be put on a waitlist. This will not affect families that register their child for school after June 30 or students who get service by law, such as special education students.

Last year, the school division was told more than 9,500 would need to ride the bus, but the actual number of student passengers has been less than 40 percent.

The release says this is consistent with a situation that has existed for several years, predating the COVID-19 pandemic.

ACPS designs the bus routes for the upcoming school year during the summer months in order to assign buses and drivers based on parental requests for service.

However, when the number of students requesting service is inflated, that results in there being stops and routes that are not needed.

Due to the driver shortage, the impact of such unnecessary, “phantom” routes and stops has been magnified all year.

To help ACPS improve service next year, families that can transport their children to and from school are encouraged to do so. This will help to free up service for those families that do not have that option.

White also says the department will be consolidating the number of bus stops on private roads beginning in August because using more centralized locations will save about 200 miles and 11 hours of daily drive time.

“These improvements to our current operations will provide much more stability, both for our families and our staff,” White said. “They also will introduce additional efficiencies to our route system and our use of buses, which will ensure that the day-to-day disruptions we have experienced this year are eliminated.”

Parents can log into their PowerSchool Parent Portal to complete the survey.

ACPS says its ultimate goal is to reach full staffing, and recruitment of drivers will continue to be a priority.

People who are interested in being a driver can learn more here. Part-time drivers may earn up to $34.64 and hour while full-time drivers can earn as much as $36.36 an hour. Salaries will be increasing by an additional five percent on July 1.

The 2023-24 school year begins on Aug. 23.