There’s a scarcity of college bus drivers across the nation. This Maryland county is asking the National Guard to fill in.

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Students in a Maryland county may even see somebody uncommon behind the wheel as they head to high school: a member of the National Guard, filling in amid a faculty bus driver scarcity. The Montgomery County Assistant Chief Administration Officer Earl Stoddard mentioned an increase in COVID-19 instances throughout the area has led to a tricky few weeks, WUSA stories.

On Tuesday, 50 bus routes within the faculty system have been affected, a spokesperson informed WUSA. 

“We’re asking the National Guard to provide bus drivers. I want to let that sink in for people. That is not something we would do under normal circumstances,” Stoddard mentioned throughout Tuesday’s council assembly, WUSA stories. “My understanding is the National Guard may not be able to help but they’ve also sent it around to counties around who may be able to help us.”

Maryland’s Emergency Management Agency requested 23 counties, three cities and state businesses if they may help, a spokesperson for the company informed WUSA. 

“These are not normal times,” Stoddard mentioned, including that it’s an unfair expectation that officers will simply “paper over some of these issues.”

On January 5, the primary day again to high school following the vacation break, the county’s public faculty system canceled 90 of its 1,228 bus routes after drivers known as out, in response to WUSA. The faculty system despatched a letter to households saying COVID-19 and staffing points have been in charge. 

Staffing points additionally arose in 2021, and in December, the district was working to rent new bus drivers. 

In a press release to CBS News, a spokesperson for the college district mentioned the county authorities’s request for bus driver assist has but to obtain a response.

“It must be said that the number of affected routes, in recent days, has declined from nearly 100 routes daily to just 29 today, Jan. 13,” the spokesperson mentioned. “Staff in the MCPS Department of Transportation are working to recruit, hire and train bus drivers in as fast a manner as is possible.”

CBS News has additionally reached out to Maryland’s Emergency Management Agency and county officers for remark and is awaiting response.

nationwide survey in 2021 discovered greater than half of America’s faculty districts report their driver scarcity is “severe” or “desperate.” Many drivers retired through the pandemic, and now some are fearful of face-to-face interplay with doubtlessly contaminated children.

The National Guard was deployed to drive buses in Massachusetts at the beginning of the 2021 faculty yr. In Virginia, Michael Mason, retired govt assistant director of the FBI, started to drive faculty buses to assist the Chesterfield County faculty district. EastSide Charter School in Delaware is providing mother and father $700 to drive their very own kids to and from faculty.

Rudolph Saunders, the director of public transportation for Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, mentioned on CBS Mornings the issue is nothing new, however the numbers are larger than typical.

“This has always been an issue. The difference is right now, the numbers are probably double what they normally would be at this time of year or more in terms of our need,” Saunders informed CBS News Errol Barnett.

Since the Omicron variant started to surge in New York, the state has skilled bus driver shortages, CBS New York stories. Many personal colleges, resembling St. Augustine Catholic in Ossining, have been affected, as they normally share buses with public faculty districts. In Westchester County’s Hendrick Hudson School District, 25% of bus drivers have been out lately coping with COVID-19. 

And faculty districts in Central Texas confronted a bus driver scarcity this week, together with Hutto ISD, which canceled most bus routes Monday, and Leander ISD, which noticed delays, CBS Austin stories.

Becoming a bus driver is not a fast course of. Drivers will need to have a business driver’s license, which requires months of coaching. And with so few candidates within the pipeline, this driver disaster may proceed for the remainder of the college yr.

In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul introduced this week a brand new plan to permit certified third events to supply the highway take a look at for business driver’s licenses as a strategy to handle a essential truck and bus driver scarcity, in response to CBS New York. This would create extra testing places and develop capability at current state-run websites, thus lowering the time it takes to get extra certified drivers licensed. 

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