The nationwide school bus driver shortage is forcing one Capital Region school to make a major change in the way it educates students.
The Ballston Spa Central School District is shifting students to remote learning Friday due to a shortage. Students in grades K-5 will follow a half-day remote instruction schedule, while middle and high school students will have a full day of remote instruction.
Schools continue to seek bus drivers in non-traditional ways amid the lack of drivers.
Dan Hart has been a school bus driver at the Shenendehowa Central School District in Clifton Park for nearly two years. He’s picked up on it pretty quickly, and is now sharing his knowledge with the next group of potential school bus drivers.
“You got to go slow over with the front tires because that’s what rocks the bus, is when you go over the front. The back tires roll over pretty nicely,” said Hart, instructing Shenendehowa parent Christell Collier.
What You Need To Know
- It’s a shortage that is happening across the state and country
- Shenendehowa and 12 other local districts held drive a bus day Thursday to get people interested in this career
- At Shenendehowa, they’re currently down 30 drivers compared to last year
For Hart, school bus driving was a great fit after a 30-year career with the New York State Police. His kids are still in school, and he was looking for something to do.
But there's also a need for school bus drivers, which has only continued to grow.
“See, now you got it. That’s what you got to do,” Hart tells Collier, after making a turn. “But you have to do that every time.”
At Shenendehowa, they’re currently down 30 drivers compared to last year. It’s a shortage that is happening across the state and country. It’s been an issue for years, but officials say it has now reached a crisis.
“All of our mechanics are on the road. Our office staff are on the road. Anybody that is CDL-qualified to drive a school bus is on the road driving school buses,” said Belinda Govich, the Capital Area Chapter president of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation.
She says the COVID-19 pandemic last year drew less people toward becoming a bus driver. On Thursday, Shenendehowa and 12 other local districts held a "Drive a Bus Day" to get people interested in the career.
“All you need is a valid regular drivers license,” Govich said. “We still train you to get your CDL, and then train you for everything else you need to know.”
Right now, the process of becoming a school bus driver takes two to three months. Govich would like to see that cut down a bit to a month and a half without sacrificing any safety requirements. She would also like to see the state retiree income cap increased to entice more individuals to the field.
As for Hart, he’s hoping this will get people like Collier to sign up to become a school bus driver to help make this challenging situation a little more manageable.
“I take this opportunity to come and drive a school bus because I love kids,” Collier said. “It’s all good. So you guys have any other questions,” said Hart, concluding his lesson.
Today, @ShenNews and 12 other local school districts held drive a bus day. They’re seeking more school bus drivers to address a shortage that’s happening across the state and country. Several individuals came to test drive a school bus this morning. pic.twitter.com/y3RWQcAz7O— Jackson Wang (@TVJacksonWang) October 14, 2021