FRAMINGHAM – Every summer, Massachusetts schools work to recruit bus drivers so there will be enough staff to drive kids when the school year begins. It has been an uphill battle since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let’s face it, everyone had to put food on that table back then, so they’d go and you know, a lot of bus drivers left, took jobs elsewhere, delivered packages and stuff like that,” explains Tom Hamilton of the School of Transportation. Association of Massachusetts. “People were a little hesitant to come back because they didn’t know how consistent that track would be.”
Framingham is one of the schools struggling to find enough drivers for the 2023-2024 school year. “We have been notified that we will have only fifty-seven (57) bus drivers to begin the upcoming 2023-2024 school year safely and timely. The district requires seventy-seven (77) buses,” read a letter from the administration to parents. “In the background, we are working as hard as we can to increase the number of buses we can use to transport our students by calling other school bus companies, coach companies and any other transport company in the area that may be able to help.”
Parents worry about their children’s rides. Katherine Leonard, the mother of a second-grader, lives 2 miles from school – and anyone within 2 miles may not be eligible for bus transportation if the city can’t hire enough drivers. “If she doesn’t get the bus, we’d have to think of something because we both work full time and so that would be hard for us,” explained Leonard.
As a result, bus companies pull out all the stops to recruit. North Reading Transportation, which serves several school districts, said in a statement to WBZ: “NRT Bus is successfully conducting several hiring efforts and has increased wages to hire more bus and van drivers to serve our communities despite the ongoing national driver shortage. .” and said hiring rates are faster this year than last year.
Tom Hamilton of the School Transportation Association says the group recruits people who might be right for the job: stay-at-home moms with young kids they can take on the bus, veterans, recent retirees, and even part-time police or firefighters.
“It’s a good job,” said Hamilton. “It’s a great job. I have some friends myself who have recently retired, and they got their license to become school bus drivers, and they love to play golf, so what they do is take students to the bus in the morning .” to school, and then play golf and go back, catch the bus and pick up the students. So, I mean, it’s a great situation for people just looking for a part-time job.”