Bus driver shortage forces students into remote learning

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AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — All 6th to 12th grade students at the Greater Amsterdam School District were forced to move to virtual learning on both Friday and Monday.

The sudden move happened after the district learned of a 40 percent decrease in drivers at the busing company they use.

“It’s frustrating obviously to not have kids in school,” Amsterdam Superintendent Rich Ruberti said.

The busing company, Student Transportation of America, told the school district the abrupt number of absences are linked to an employee’s COVID-19 exposure.  

The exposure led to the absence of employees who had to be tested. That coupled with drivers resigning from the job led to the slew of empty driver’s seats.  

“It makes you think, ‘How are we going to do this next week if they don’t bring these people back?’ And so you’re really just thinking of scenarios,” Ruberti said.

A bus driver shortage isn’t specific to this school district. In the case of Amsterdam, the pandemic exacerbated the issue. 

“There’s many school districts across our state suffering some sort of shortage,” said Executive Director of New York Association for Pupil Transportation David Christopher.

Christopher said acquiring certifications and licenses make it difficult to quickly get drivers on the road. 

“It could essentially take several weeks, months, to get them on the road. You know, you interview 10 people, you may actually begin to train five, and you may end up with three at the end of the day,” Christopher said. 

To entice people to apply for the job, his organization is advocating for a tax relief for drivers. Until the Amsterdam School District can get more people in the driver’s seat, they’re working closely with its transportation department to solve any potential issues that may arise. 

“This year, the only constant is change. We understand that, so we’re adjusting as much as we can,” Ruberti said.

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