How the school bus driver shortage is affecting local communities

Hampden County

AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – Communities across the state are feeling the effects of a bus driver shortage, and its prompted Governor Baker to bring in the National Guard to help out some schools in the eastern part of the state.

As of now, locally, the guard won’t be necessary.

“We want to make sure the kids are safe and sound,” said Mayor Domenic Sarno of Springfield. “We are proactive, we plan ahead, to make sure those buses are running.”

“We are having the same problem that the rest of the state is happening, but as you said, a smaller degree,” said Mayor Bill Sapelli of Agawam.

In Agawam, the Lower Pioneer Valley Regional Collaborative stages their buses off Shoemaker Lane. Their buses serve several western Massachusetts communities. Administrative staff are actually doing some of the routes now. Mechanics are also stepping behind the wheel, but the LPVEC wants parents to know their students are in good hands with the new drivers.

“Anyone who is driving your child to school is a licensed driver, so they may change during the day and go on a different route, and learn that route, but they do know where they are going, they will get there and they are certified,” said Roland Joyal, Executive Director of the LPVEC.

Joyal said they’ve been forced to combine routes with fewer drivers around, so students are getting home and to their sports contests later. They have 30 open positions, and he believes the shortage is due to people weighing the risks of driving during the pandemic.

“We are hearing other driver agencies are short too, as well as everybody, right. The hospitality industry, the food service industry… it’s a shortage everywhere,” said Joyal. “Where did all the workers go?”

The LPVEC is negotiating with prospective drivers, and they’ve also really stepped up their online recruiting.

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