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Bus driver shortage raising alarms as schools look to reopen

September 8, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — A shortage of bus drivers in Boston’s public schools is raising concern among parents who fear that some students could be left behind when the district starts a new year Thursday.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius have told families to expect significant delays or bus cancellations, but details are not being provided to families until Thursday morning, The Boston Globe reports.

The shortage is so severe that a union for bus drivers last week urged the district to postpone the start of classes. The district’s bus fleet was short more than 60 drivers at the time, and few had been added as of Thursday.

Families and advocates worry that some students could end up stranded at home or at bus stops on Thursday. The Boston Special Education Parent Advisory Council has raised concerns about students who need special education services including door-to-door transportation or individual bus monitors.

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“I honestly don’t know what to expect now and am concerned for families that don’t have the work flexibility, income, or resources to secure alternative transportation,” said Roxi Harvey, who chairs the council.

Schools across the nation have been grappling with driver shortages amid a labor market that has been tightened by the pandemic. Districts in some areas are offering drivers cash bonuses as schools work to reopen amid surging numbers of COVID-19 cases.

In Boston, Janey has defended her administration’s handling of the bus system amid criticism from some other mayoral candidates.

“I am committed to ensuring every student has access to safe transportation to school,” Janey said in a statement. “I have challenged my team to create creative solutions to ensure students get to school, as well as hire more drivers, as the city faces the nationwide bus driver shortage.”