Massachusetts Has Creative Fix for Crippling Shortage

National Guard to fill in on school bus routes
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2021 5:42 PM CDT
National Guard to Help With School Bus Driver Shortage
A "Bus Drivers Wanted" sign in Sandy, Utah. A nationwide shortage of bus drivers is complicating the start of a new school year already facing a surge in COVID-19 cases and conflicts over whether masks should be required in school buildings.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Schools are finally opening again; the next challenge is getting kids into the buildings. There are school bus driver shortages all over the country for many reasons. Massachusetts has a solution—at least a temporary fix. Up to 250 members of the Massachusetts National Guard who already have commercial driver’s licenses are being activated to transport kids, WBZ in Boston reports. Instead of the big yellow buses, they’ll be driving vans called 7D vehicles that hold only 10 passengers. And they’ll still need some additional training before they start the gig. Thanks to federal funding for COVID related expenses, the program is affordable for school districts. The superintendent of schools in Boston suburb Chelsea, Almi Abeyta, said, “We are grateful that somebody was definitely thinking outside the box.”

The driver shortage, which is causing delayed and missed pickups all over, stems from a mix of COVID-related causes, the Washington Post reports. Some drivers simply found other work when lockdowns closed schools. Many drivers are older and retired from other jobs. They may be reluctant to return to work during a pandemic that is sickening and killing more seniors. Some drivers may have picked up more lucrative driving jobs in a tight labor market. School districts are loosening purse strings and getting creative in their push to solve the shortage. A district in Montana is offering a $4,000 signing bonus, and one in Michigan is offering $2,500. One school in Delaware is offering to pay parents $700 to drive their kids in themselves for the year, the Post reports. (More school stories.)

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