The state of Massachusetts is short some 1,200 school bus drivers. The problem is so serious that Lynn Public Schools are no longer offering bus service.
Transportation officials in Concord say hundreds of bus drivers across the state were laid off during the coronavirus pandemic and decided not to come back. In Concord, officials kept their school bus drivers on payroll even when bussing slowed down.
"The pandemic hit, the drivers had to look elsewhere in order to have an income," said John Arena, the transportation manager for Concord Public Schools and also a bus driver.
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He says finding replacement drivers is no easy task.
"The ability to handle a large, very heavy moving object and control it along with precious cargo of children," he said. "It's not for everybody.
Arena explained that there are strict requirements to become a school bus driver in Massachusetts, which make it very hard to find new ones.
"The requirements for driving a school bus in Massachusetts is 60 hours of training which requires on-road and off-road training," he said. "It includes going to the registry and getting a CDL license."
At the same time, those who moved on to other jobs often let their licensing lapse meaning they can’t easily return.
"There’s self certifications that need to happen on an annual basis and once you skip that, you lose your ability to drive," he said.
Transportation officials are hoping more people see the pluses of driving school buses.
In Lynn, the school bus service suspension is affecting more than 650 students. School officials met Thursday night to try to resolve the situation.