CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) — School districts across New York State continue to grapple with a shortage of bus drivers. The Shenendehowa Central School District alerting parents Tuesday that some routes would need to be combined, which will lead to routes being a bit late, or taking longer than usual.

Alfred Karam, Director of Transportation at Shen, pointed to a graphic on his office computer showing just how quickly and how much the numbers of applicants and new drivers have fallen off.

“Those numbers aren’t there,” Karam said, “and that’s what gets us into this kind of a situation.”

Karam shared a graphic detailing the number of drivers the district has interviewed and retained over the past several years.

Karam said the steep, post-pandemic decline wasn’t just due to people leaving the career behind over fears of getting sick.

“It dried up the foot traffic. My data showed we had a lot of people come in, close to 70, 80 applicants a year,” Karam explained, “and now we’re down to barely 30.“

Nicholas Vallone, Board President of New York School Bus Contractors Association, said replenishing the aging workforce could be made more difficult by the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in New York. It is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law, and younger interest in the drug may make matters harder for hiring.

“Every summer that comes and goes, we lose a portion of our older workforce to retirement,” Vallone said, “and right now, we do not see a healthy stream of younger individuals looking at this line of work.”

Still, both Vallone and Karam want to highlight not only the benefits of driving a school bus, like competitive pay, but also the fulfillment of impacting countless students’ lives.

“It really starts on the school bus, and it ends on the school bus,“ Karam said.

According to the Shenendehowa District website, when you get permanent work of 20 hours a week, you get health, dental, vision, state retirement, etc. benefits. Starting wage is $20+ for substitutes. Shen provides the training. If you want more info, call 518-881-0240.