HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Nearly 300 school bus drivers will walk out the door after work on Friday. State COVID-19 vaccines mandates go into effect in the coming days, and some drivers say they have a religious and/or health aversion to taking it.
John Hipsher, a spokesperson for Connecticut School Transportation Association (CSTA) says, “the driver shortage is massive.”
In a letter obtained by News 8 from the CSTA to the commissioner of the state Department of Education, Association leaders warn, “The school bus driver shortage will become 10 times worse on that day, and it will be a crisis driven by government.”
That day meaning Monday, Sept. 27, when Governor Ned Lamont’s COVID vaccination mandate for certain workers goes into effect.
Hipsher says, “moms and dads should have patience for sure on Monday.”
The Association represents nearly 60 companies. A recent survey shows a snapshot of those who responded:
- 1,558 of the drivers are unvaccinated
- 1,331 will take COVID tests
- 227 of those drivers are refusing to test weekly
In nearby Massachusetts, the National Guard was called in by the governor to help drive the kids to school. News 8 has learned our state has “other carriers” waiting in the wings.
State COO and commissioner from the State Dept. of Administrative Services, Josh Geballe, explains, “Our partner, who does Medicaid transportation services, we’ve connected them to a number of school districts who expressed concerns about driver shortages.”
What if COVID test results are not back in time? Should a bus driver show up to work? Hipsher says his drivers from CSTA should not.
“For this first week, they should not be showing up.” If a district contractor is not in compliance, there is a penalty.
Geballe points to the executive order: “School districts could potentially run the risk of their state funding being at risk.”
The CSTA is asking the governor to exempt drivers from the mandate or compromise with a 60-day extension to get a process for COVID testing in place, allow bus companies to do their own COVID testing, and ask that the state reimburse districts for COVID testing.
The governor responded, “I can tell you we’re in active discussions with the bus drivers. I can tell you we’ve done everything to accelerate getting additional bus drivers in place.”
But Hipsher warns, ”if you start integrating drivers on-routes that don’t know the protocol you’re crossing the line on safety.”
Officials say, in addition to packing your patience, you should stay in touch with your local school district.