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This month the East Longmeadow School Committee discussed the current shortage of bus drivers in the district as well as the problems it’s creating for schools and students.

A representative from the central office told committee members that East Longmeadow is down two buses and three drivers.

As a result of the shortages, remaining bus drivers have been required to cover new, unfamiliar routes.  This has caused confusion and resulted in children arriving to school late on multiple occasions. 

To save time, drivers will no longer stop at cul-de-sacs.  Instead, students who live on a cul-de-sac must walk to the end of the street to be picked up.

To make matters worse, the district’s transportation coordinator has been eliminated due to budget constraints.  The position has been outsourced to a regional group called Lower Pioneer Valley Education Collaborative (LPVEC).

The central office representative who spoke at the meeting said that parents who have questions or concerns about their children’s transportation should contact LPVEC.  However, if parents need further assistance, they can contact the central office directly.

The bus driver shortage has been a statewide problem leading Governor Baker to activate members of the national guard to drive kids to school in parts of eastern Massachusetts and Holyoke.  According to a report by wgbh.org,

The reasons for the lack of interest in the jobs are complex.  Some bus drivers found alternate employment when many schools closed during the pandemic in March of 2020.  Other drivers may fear losing their expanded government unemployment benefits if they go back to work, while others may not be keen to drive a busload of unvaccinated students—even if they wear masks.

The report fails to consider the possibility that many bus drivers (who are employed by private vendors subject to the federal vaccine mandate) may be unwilling to receive a COVID-19 immunization as a condition of their employment.