BOSTON (WHDH) – A significant shortage of bus drivers in the Boston Public Schools system is raising concern among parents who fear that their children could be left behind when the new school year begins on Thursday.
“We do anticipate some delays,” Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said. “We are really trying to do everything in our control here with this driver shortage to make sure we have our routes covered.”
Cassellius warned families last week that there could be significant delays or cancellations because the school system is between 40 and 60 drivers short of normal staffing levels.
United Steelworkers Local 8751, the union that represents the city’s bus drivers, said, “Routing for the 2021-2022 school year is by far the worst fiasco we’ve witnessed in our careers…”This transportation chaos is happening in the context of a historic pandemic. The Union has also demanded COVID-19 routing measures, like additional start time prior to the morning and afternoon trips and a fair COVID-19 quarantine policy.”
Cassellius says a contract with the drivers has been settled and more than 30 new drivers have been hired. Standby drivers will also be made available.
“We want to make sure parents know we’re doing everything we possibly can,” Cassellius said. “If they show up tomorrow and we don’t have any absences we should be able to cover our routes.”
Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards said– that is a big if.
“I don’t think we are treating this with the true urgency of what this means to a family if a school bus doesn’t show up,” she said. “It isn’t a matter of them just getting into a car. It’s a matter of kids just getting educated.”
The return to the classroom comes as national health leaders sounded the alarm over a surge in coronavirus cases among children.
More than 250,000 child cases were reported in the United States last week, which accounts for more than a quarter of the total number.
“We have taken every measure possible to try to mitigate all of the spread that we possibly can but we are living with COVID,” Cassellius said.
Those measures include requiring masks indoors, holding vaccine clinics at several schools for children 12 years and older, improving air quality, and frequent COVID-19 testing.
These are steps that national health leaders have been recommending to get children back to in-person learning.
“So that we don’t have another year of disrupted learning,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. “Students suffered enough. It’s time to make sure we do everything we need to do to focus on our students being in the classroom safely.”
Masks will be required for students and adults in all public school buildings in Boston. Parents can also consent to COVID testing.
Adults working within the school district are required to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Vaccine clinics will also be held for students who are eligible to get the shot.
A meeting is scheduled for Thursday for school leaders district-wide on how to properly report positive coronavirus cases to make sure everything is tracked and monitored.
Boston Public Schools students in grades first through 12th will begin their school year Thursday, while preschool and kindergarten students start Monday.
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