The governor of Massachusetts is calling in the National Guard to help get students to public schools due to bus driver shortages. Governor Charlie Baker announced on Monday that up to 250 members of the Massachusetts National Guard will be deployed, with 90 of them set to start vehicle training on Tuesday.
After training, the Guard members will be available throughout the state, but this first group is going to the following cities: Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn. This doesn’t mean students will be driven to school in a “deuce and a half,” or that the National Guard will start operating its own bus fleet.
The cities where Guard members will be deployed aren’t very far from the state’s capitol, Boston, which has declined help for now, according to NBC News. School districts in Boston have been able to get students into class within fifteen minutes after the school day begins, per NBC.
The Associated Press noted that amidst the shortages, the Boston delays are actually better than they’ve been in years:
On the first day of school in Boston last Thursday, school officials reported that more than 1,200 buses ran late and more than 40% did not make it to school in time for the opening bell.
Still, officials said, it was the the district’s best performance for busing students to school on time for the first day of school in some six years.
That’s how bad the shortages are, and they’re not just affecting Boston or other cities throughout Massachusetts. The problem is now considered desperate in other parts of the U.S., as CNN details:
In a survey of school districts last month, 65% “indicated that bus driver shortage is their number one problem or concern,” according to a release by the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, and the National School Transportation Association, which conducted the joint survey.
“As school districts across the country return to in-person learning and COVID continues to have an impact on education in general and school transportation scheduling and logistics in particular, the shortage of school bus drivers has become conspicuous,” NAPT Executive Director Mike Martin said in the release. “But let’s be clear — this is not a new problem. Nor it is easy to solve.”
More than three-quarters — 78% — indicated that the shortage of bus drivers is getting “much worse” or “a little worse, and 51% said the shortage is “severe” or “desperate,” the survey found.
The bus driver shortages are affecting the whole country and they’re only getting worse.