How bad is the school bus driver shortage in school districts across New York State?
Some are now operating with 15-20% fewer bus drivers than they need, and it’s not a problem that’s getting better.
“There are neighboring districts from ours are 5 to 7 to 10 routes short, which in turn, leaves the school districts to their own devices to figure out a solution,” Nick Vallone, vice president of the State School Bus Contractors Association said. “Some of that is asking parents to drop off their kids.”
Exacerbating the problem is a vaccine mandate imposed by Governor Kathy Hochul and Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner.
The vaccine mandate applies to bus drivers, and with districts already being dozens short in some cases – it could create havoc with transporting students.
“This is very new so we don’t know of any impact, but I’ve heard anecdotally from many of our members that we’re going to lose drivers because of this,” David Christopher, with the New York Association of Pupil Transportation said. “So we’re waiting to see.”
Wages are one problem – with many districts still paying less than other entry level jobs. Combine that with the stress and training involved with being a bus driver and it’s a recipe for disaster, as districts struggle to find willing drivers.
“This is a public service job,” Christopher said. “People don’t become bus drivers to get rich. They do it as a part time opportunity and many of them do it because they like kids, they want to help their school districts and communities. It is a community job that is important.”
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