school bus driver shortage

Officials Say There Were ‘Very Few' School Bus Disruptions

Gov. Ned Lamont said school bus drivers who refuse to get vaccinated or tested should be put on unpaid furlough for a period of time

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Families were asked for patience and understanding as the school week got underway because of the potential for a shortage of bus drivers.

The Connecticut School Transportation Association said roughly 300 workers statewide might not be on the job because they won’t follow a state COVID-19 mandate that went into effect on Monday. Then, in a statement issued late Monday morning, Connecticut School Transportation Association said there were very few disruptions in getting kids to school.

“Thanks to the committed school bus drivers and managers for promptly following the Governor's mandate for COVID vaccinations and testing, while at the same time, doing what needed to be done to get Connecticut’s children safely to school,” Jon Hipsher, vice president of COSTA, said in a statement.

Gov. Ned Lamont said he only heard of a few instances where backup drivers were needed.

"I think I can speak on behalf of 500,000 kids and their parents, thankfully the overwhelming majority of the school bus drivers showed up let kids get back to school for in-person learning," Lamont said.

The governor said the state is currently processing the declarations paperwork from drivers stating their vaccine status and when they plan to get vaccinated or tested. He said the processing will take a couple of days.

COSTA also said there has been an uptick in school bus driver applications.

School bus companies preparing for a possible driver shortage on Monday.

“I can tell you it's all hands on deck. Some of the owners of these companies, who obviously have the licenses, they're driving. Everybody is doing whatever they can to fill those voids,” Ann Baldwin, Connecticut School Transportation Association spokesperson, previously said.

Parents should prepare for a potentially rough start to the school week - hundreds of bus drivers statewide may not be ready to work on Monday.

The association said the group of hundreds of drivers is refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine or test weekly, which is required under Governor Ned Lamont’s order.

Lamont said he did not understand why drivers would opt for the testing option.

"The vaccination is free, it's easy, it's available," Lamont said. "You do it and you're done."

The governor said the state is working on understanding how many drivers refuse to get vaccinated or tested.

"Obviously if you're not vaccinated and you refuse to get tested, you can't come to work cause it's just dangerous for everyone around you and I think that ought to be an unpaid furlough for a period of time," Lamont said.

The state had already been dealing with a driver shortage and superintendents were warning some districts expected to be harder hit on Monday.

“They will do everything possible and working with their bus companies to get as many students to school as possible, which will probably mean doubling up buses,” said Fran Rabinowitz, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents executive director.

The Lamont Administration said it has tried to support districts including finding help to cover routes and speeding up background checks.

“We believe that parents around the state want their children, especially those who are unvaccinated, around people who are vaccinated,” said Max Reiss, Lamont’s communications director.

In a letter to the community, Southington’s superintendent said they are working with their bus company and are preparing for “… the potential for compounded shortages which may impact our operations.”

Families were planning ahead, too.

“We might potentially drive or carpool in our neighborhood. We have a lot of different families that go to the same elementary school. So we might need to band together to get through this,” said Bridget DeCorte, of Southington.

Many hope this doesn’t last long. But the reality is districts have to be prepared because this potential extreme shortage might not be fixed quickly.

DATTCO's vice president of school buses said it is offering different incentives with 70 openings statewide. In South Windsor, there is a $7,000 sign-on bonus for a licensed driver.

A Facebook post from Region 15 schools said some bus routes would be delayed in the morning.

"We appreciate your patience as we work through this morning’s challenges and appreciate any families of these buses that can provide transportation for students to school," the statement said. "While the routes above have been impacted, I would like to thank the many Region 15 drivers that continue to put our students first and isolate any adult issues from those of our students."

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