Schools

Here’s how schools are dealing with bus driver shortages

One district is offering a $1,000 signing bonus.

John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe
SCHOOL BUSES:

School districts in Massachusetts are facing another school year hard pressed to find bus drivers to shuttle students back to classrooms.

Indeed, the labor shortage facing the nation has reached local schools, where administrators are working to attract new hires to serve as bus drivers, teachers, cafeteria workers, and other staff positions, WBZ reports.

“School bus drivers don’t grow on trees,” John McCarthy, CEO of NRT Bus, one of the state’s largest school transportation providers, told the news station. “They are highly trained at what they do. It’s hard enough to take care of their own kids, never mind 72 kids on a regular basis.”

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McCarthy said there could be service disruptions for students and their families as the school year begins, according to WBZ.

Some school districts, however, are getting creative in trying to attract drivers.

In Marlborough, for instance, school officials have advertised the positions on social media, with an offer to pay $20 an hour for the required 60-hour training course, WBZ reports.

The district is also combining bus driver jobs with cafeteria shifts, thereby creating full-time jobs for those seeking extra hours. There’s also a $1,000 signing bonus.

Kimberly Upton, a mother of two who lives in Dracut, after accepting a similar offer, is now learning to drive a bus with NRT, she told WBZ.

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And in a few weeks, she’ll even use her skills to drive her own kids to school onboard her new wheels.

“It’s an important job and I can’t wait to do it,” Upton said.

McCarthy, who is about 300 bus drivers short, said some of the reason for the shortage stems from the fact many drivers are seniors who have health concerns about being on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driver shortages are also impacting a variety of industries, making for competition for individuals with CDL licenses, he added.

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