Many parents in Lynn, Massachusetts, are reeling after learning their children will be unable to take the bus to school because of a shortage of drivers.
"Very frustrating, very," one father said. "I have contact with the school. From what I know, what they’re telling me, they don’t have the bus available for the kids right now."
The school district announced it would temporarily suspend transportation to all students. The decision most immediately impacts the 660 students in special education programs who are scheduled to return to full-time in-person learning on Monday, April 5.
In a letter to families on March 16, school officials wrote in part, "As you are aware, the District is currently in the process of increasing the number of students with disabilities who are invited back into the school buildings for in-person learning. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we were informed by our transportation company that there are not enough bus drivers available to transport all of the students in the district who are provided transportation on their IEP."
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Phylitia Jamerson, the administrator of special education for Lynn Public Schools, said parents who have to transport their students themselves in the meantime will be reimbursed.
"It was bad," Jamerson said. "We had students in the same classroom where two might’ve been getting a bus as two might not have been getting a bus but wanted a bus so we really had to figure out a solution on how we can provide transportation for all of our students."
The head of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts explained the problem goes far beyond Lynn and stems from pandemic layoffs.
"You know bus drivers couldn’t sit around, they got to put food on the table, they gotta pay the light bill just like everybody else does so it created a huge shortage of drivers," Tom Hamilton said. "We are probably short about 1,200 drivers across the state."
But that provides little comfort to struggling parents.
"It’s hard for mothers especially if you’re a single mother and you need that transportation," one woman said.
There will be a school committee meeting Thursday night to address this issue. School officials say they are working on a permanent solution.