Several Hudson Valley school districts have been left scrambling at the beginning of the school year as they contend with the national bus driver shortage.
The East Ramapo School District in Rockland County, and the Pine Bush and Newburgh school districts in Orange County began the new year with a lack of drivers to pick up students, forcing parents to make adjustments on the fly and the cancellation of some classes.
In those districts, parents have been asked to drive students to school or join a carpool to get the children to classes, including the creation of Facebook groups to help parents connect with one another.
Pine Bush Schools Superintendent Tom Mains was forced to cancel classes on Friday, Sept. 10 due to a “bus situation” that involved a dozen bus routes that could not be manned.
“Earlier today, I was informed the same 12 bus routes that were not covered today will not be covered again for tomorrow,” Mains wrote in a message to parents. “As a result, I will be closing all Pine Bush district-run schools tomorrow, Friday, September 10, 2021.”
In East Ramapo, approximately 10 percent of students could not be transported, according to Superintendent Clarence Ellis.
"The current bus driver shortage is a nationwide problem," Ellis said. "My team is working to minimize the potential impact of these challenges for our students and exploring every alternative.”
School officials in the Hudson Valley have been working on both short-term and long-term solutions to the bus shortage as they look to find an option that is “both practical and manageable.”
“There is a nationwide shortage of bus drivers which will have an impact on our school transportation scheduling,” Newburgh school officials said. “The district is doing our best to manage all transportation with reduced busing staff.
“School buses may experience significant delays. Call volume at the transportation offices will be high and it will take extra time to respond to voicemails.”
It is unclear when the national school bus driver shortage will end, Curt Macysyn, the Executive Director of the National School Transportation Association said to Yahoo Finance.
“Right now, we face the reality that the COVID-19 crisis has impacted our country's workforce,” he said. "And certainly, student transportation is not immune to employment market conditions. So we see a shortage in a lot of different sectors of the market.”
Macysyn said that moving forward, schools are going to have to make adjustments and be flexible until the driver shortage is over.
“We're going to look at it in terms of a short-term solution and in terms of a long-term solution,” he said. “The short-term solution that you're going to see are more creative and efficient routing, probably double runs. I think school districts are going to have to be flexible in terms of bell times and be flexible in terms of drop off and pick up times.”
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