There continues to be a shortage of school bus drivers across the United States. In September, the Governor of Massachusetts deployed members of the National Guard to drive buses. A school bus driver shortage has now forced the cancellation of an entire school day in a Massachusetts school district outside of the mission area.
Classes across the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District were canceled on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The district’s superintendent stated on the school district’s website that the closure was “due to an extremely high number of bus drivers being out.” The superintendent expects operations to return to normal by Monday but hinted that “lingering adjustments” might be needed for bus routes.
NRT Bus is the company contracted by the school district to transport students. John McCarthy, CEO of the company, has said that NRT Bus has 98 drivers in training and aims to start getting them on the road by December. McCarthy also mentioned many of the company’s drivers left for other jobs when the pandemic halted in-person learning.
He told the Gardner News, “They went to work for Amazon or other areas that were booming during this pandemic. Also, you have folks that retired. We’re trying to get some of these folks back and by the way some of them are coming back.” The school districts that contract NRT Bus have had to deal with bus route delays and adjust extracurricular activity schedules to compensate for NRT’s staff shortages.
Other school districts around the country are taking different approaches to keep in-person learning running smoothly. For example, a school district in neighboring Connecticut is hiring a limousine service company to supplement their current contractor and fulfill the district’s needs. The Connecticut school district is using federal coronavirus relief funds to cover the costs. There isn’t a clear end in sight for these driver shortages across most of the country.