School Bus Drivers in Short Supply After Spike in COVID Deaths

School Bus Drivers in Short Supply After Spike in COVID Deaths row of parked yellow school buses (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

By Theodore Bunker | Friday, 24 September 2021 11:04 AM

A recent spike in deaths from COVID-19 among school bus drivers in several states has left many districts with few options for transporting students, according to a recent report from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

The group notes that according to various news reports and a Twitter account that tracks school personnel who were "lost to [COVID]," school bus drivers in almost a dozen states have died of the virus since last month, including 12 deaths in Georgia alone since the school year started.

Ronna Weber, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, notes that although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires that all travelers on public transit, including school buses for both public and private institutions, wear masks, "there’s no enforcement on that. Police are not going to board a school bus" to enforce this rule.

She added that about 500,000 school buses, on estimate, are used on any given day, and that since many of their drivers are older people who have retired from their previous occupation, they are more at-risk from COVID-19.

"Every life is an unfortunate loss," Weber added.

"School bus drivers don’t grow on trees," John McCarthy, chief executive of NRT Bus, told Boston-area CBS affiliate WBZ. "They are highly trained at what they do. It’s hard enough to take care of their own kids, never mind 72 kids on a regular basis."

Massachusetts has experienced a recent shortage in school bus drivers, forcing Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this month to deploy National Guard troops to assist with transporting students using vans called 7D vehicles that can seat up to 11 people, including the driver.

"Obviously the goal here is to try to make sure if we have vehicles, we put people on them who are qualified to drive them and do what we can to make sure kids can get to school," Baker said in a press conference at the time, according to the Boston Globe.