In the school year when most things have returned to normal after the pandemic, challenges such as the nationwide shortage of bus drivers remain for schools, both nationally and locally.
The shortage of bus drivers is not something new this year, but it is something that has worsened since the beginning of the school year. In fact, most of the time, schools can find themselves slightly short of bus drivers at the very beginning of the year, but nationally, districts are estimated to be 30-50% short of drivers at this time. time this year.
The shortage is believed to be caused by many of the same factors that caused the overall labor shortage, such as low wages, stress and general pandemic concerns. Variants of COVID-19 still exist, and a school bus is one of the many places where the disease can most easily spread.
Locally, at the Central School of Panama, the shortage hits in the same way as the national schools.
“It affects Panama like most schools,” said former Panamanian Superintendent Bert Lictus. “We spoke with locals who might be interested in driving for us. We are working to be able to help with training and certification. We hope this will work, but it’s not an easy fix. Bus driver training can take a long time. It is a difficult situation.
To be a bus driver, you must have a commercial driver’s license with a “s” or school bus endorsement. A “p” or passenger approval is also required.
The state is currently waiving the 14-day wait fee between taking the written test and driving test for those working toward their CDL license to address the shortage.
At Randolph Central School, concern over the shortage is great, but the school is ready to work to help those interested in training fill the spots.
“Randolph Central School, like all other districts, is affected,” said Superintendent Kaine Kelly. “We have taken proactive steps over the past two or three years to train drivers to keep the list comprehensive. At the moment, we have just the amount needed to start the school year. We do not have excess drivers. I put it in permanent position for those who wish to follow a formation. We accept anyone who is licensed and able to drive and are willing to work with them to make this happen. We also have a contract that drivers have to drive with us for a certain amount of time.
Even in districts that are doing well with driver numbers right now, more are needed.
“We are doing well this year, although it was a challenge the year before,” said Cassadaga Valley Superintendent Chuck Leichner. “We are well staffed this year, but we could always use more. For now though, we are good to go.
Some school districts, like Westfield, also don’t have a significant shortage right now.
“We are fortunate not to have a significant shortage at the moment,” said Superintendent Mike Cipolla. “We try to have a good number of replacement drivers available. We also offer training for drivers, but at the moment we have enough staff and are able to meet all our needs. »
And yet, for other local school districts, the struggle continued.
“We were missing three drivers since the start of the year” said Bemus Point Superintendent Joseph Reyda. “We continue to look for interested people. We do our best to work with parents to get children to school in every building every day. Sporting events and extracurricular activities in Maple Grove present a daunting challenge.
Silver Creek Schools, at a meeting earlier this month, also noted problems finding drivers. “At the moment we are at nine, whereas in general we want to be at 13-15. Three drivers quit their jobs the week before the start of the school year”, Silver Creek Superintendent Todd Crandall told the OBSERVER. “The nine people we really empowered.”