National Guard to help with bus driver shortage in Massachusetts

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BOSTON (WWLP) — Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Monday that he is activating the National Guard to help schools that are facing a bus driver shortage.

Starting on Tuesday, 90 members of the state’s National Guards were tasked with helping school districts in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn. Baker’s executive order came after dozens of schools in the Commonwealth complained that they couldn’t find enough people to shuttle students to and from school.

The governor’s order makes up to 250 guard members available to school districts across the state and more could be called into action if necessary. “The goal here is to try to make sure if we have vehicles, we put people in them who are qualified to drive them,” Baker said. “And do what we can to make sure kids can get to school, because obviously, the driver shortage is creating some real issues.”

The governor added that many National Guard members already have CDL licenses, however, they will have to go through training in order to drive students to and from school. And right now, support is only being offered to four school districts, all of which are located in the eastern part of the state. In the western part of the state, some parents worry that the driver shortage means more kids on the bus.

“I think it’s pretty dangerous,” said Derek Washington of Springfield. “Not just for the COVID, but just for the fact if there’s an accident on a school bus, or if there’s a fight.”

Baker said he is open to expanding the program out west. Local bus companies also say they’re hiring. At a job fair in West Springfield last week, Patty Miolla from the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative said, “Through the pandemic, we had drivers that didn’t drive. And now, we are coming back into the bus season and we do need drivers.”

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