A school bus driver shortage for vendors is impacting the Jersey City Board of Education, forcing their district drivers to make additional routes and causing delays in the classroom, according to school officials.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“The district is experiencing issues with school busses. There is a staff shortage across the state, and on any day, the lack of employees is forcing companies to cancel routes. When this happens, our drivers need to make additional runs causing lengthy delays,” Walker said in his weekly message to parents.
“We are working with the bus companies and our district staff to lessen our dependency on vendors. We are also developing strategies to increase the number of runs our drivers can make on a single day.”
Deputy Superintendent of Schools Dr. Norma Fernandez said that vendors who expected to be fully staffed have seen drivers leave for new careers and in some cases even don’t show up without calling out in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She continued that this has forced the district to stagger the pick up and drop off of students by their own paraprofessionals as paraprofessionals watch the students who have already arrived.
Board of Education President Mussab Ali noted that this has been an issue since school started on September 9th, noting that special needs students have felt the bus driver vendor shortage the most.
“We’re paying our bus drivers something like $22 an hour and from our first day we had shortages from vendors … particularly around special needs children that have had a little bit of difficulty,” he said over the phone today.
“I think for us, we’re looking at guidance from the state to look at how we can make these vendors fulfill their contracts … The fact that they’re unable to do that is breach of contract. It’s just unacceptable: no child should be in a position where they can’t get to school.”
He said at tonight’s caucus meeting and beyond, the board will be discussing ways to enter into emergency use contracts with new vendors.
A bus driver shortage has become a major issue across the states already during the 2021-2022 scholastic year, with a national survey indicating that the pay rate and altered transportation service during the public health emergency as reasons.