Because the nationwide school bus driver shortage is worsening, some schools are asking the National Guard for assistance.
So far, at least nine states have asked their governors to call up local guardsmen, including MD, MA, DE, NY, PA, WI, NV, AZ, MN.
In Maryland, the largest school district has had to move to remote learning due to sick drivers. So they asked Gov. Larry Hogan for help getting the children back in the classroom.
“ It’s been more than two weeks since the district sent its own SOS. They asked for 200 bus drivers,” said Earl Stoddard, Montgomery County’s assistant chief administrative officer. “They are still inclined to try and help us, but they’re looking for resources to do it.”
So far, Hogan has not responded to the district’s plea. But according to a statement to CBS, the Maryland National Guard is currently busy supporting the state’s department of health with COVID-19 testing, “patient transport,” and other pandemic-related efforts.
In total, 16 Montgomery County public schools had moved to virtual learning as of Thursday (Jan. 20). And unless the Guard steps in, those locations will likely remain closed at least until the end of the month.
Massachusetts Activates National Guard to Drive School Buses Amid COVID Related Driver Shortage
While some states are still struggling to find relief amid the school bus driver shortage, Massachusetts has the matter under control.
In September, MA Gov. Charlie Baker made the announcement that he was sending the National Guard to man busses throughout the state.
“Once it became pretty clear that there were going to be some communities shorthanded – it wasn’t going to be a vehicle issue. It was going to be people with CDLs – we started talking to the Guard,” he said.
Because most MA guardsmen are not able to drive the standard yellow busses, they have been using school transport vans instead. And while many of the soldiers already hold CDL, they still had to go to Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn for more training.
Up to 250 soldiers are currently ready to cover when drivers are sick.
“There are a bunch of communities who have said they’re interested in this,” Baker continued. “And we’re glad to be able to help because it’s important.”
Because Baker deployed the National Guard during a pandemic, the school systems do not have to cover any of the costs associated with training or implementation. Instead, the federal government is financially responsible.
And furthermore, Gov. Baker noted that the school transportation efforts will in no way affect the National Guard’s ability to respond to other emergencies.