Schools

Charlie Baker to activate National Guard to help get students to school amid bus driver shortage

Ninety members will begin training Tuesday to assist four communities.

A driver walked past rows of school buses used for Boston Public Schools last week. David L Ryan/Globe Staff
Bus stop, bus woes

To help offset the impacts of a school bus driver shortage facing Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker is activating up to 250 National Guard members to help bring students to and from school, his administration announced on Monday.

Officials said 90 members of the National Guard will begin training on Tuesday for service in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn.

“These Guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans known as 7D vehicles to address staffing shortages in certain districts,” the Baker administration said in a statement.

“As with any school transportation worker, all activated Guard personnel will complete vehicle training to ensure the safety of children and families,” the statement continues. “Drivers will meet all statutory requirements for 7D drivers. Throughout the mission, the Guard will comply with all health and safety measures.”

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This particular mission will not interfere with the Guard’s ability to respond to emergencies in Massachusetts, officials said.

The call comes amid numerous issues for schools facing driver shortages, another product of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Several districts reported bus staffing challenges last school year — the breaking point of a problem that has been years in the making, experts told Boston.com earlier this year.

“No question about (it): The pandemic just changed everything,” David Strong, president of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts, said in April. “It just created a situation that took a difficult situation and turned it into an impossible situation.”

On the first day of school last week in Boston, families reported long waits for buses. Boston Public Schools officials said about 57 percent of the school bus fleet completed on-time drop offs, meaning students were at school before the first bell.

Eighty-five percent of buses arrived within 15 minutes of the bell and 96 percent arrived within 30 minutes, they said.

Baker, on Monday, said Boston schools were offered assistance from the National Guard and officials indicated “they were going to think about it,” according to the State House News Service.

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