FRAMINGHAM, MASS. (WHDH) - Framingham Public Schools are facing a serious staff shortage only a week before the start of the school year.
The district needs 77 buses to effectively transport children to and from its schools, but only 60 drivers are signed up to drive them this fall, according to officials.
Just as the summer was winding down, many parents received a message from school leadership about the situation.
“I am disappointed and I am truly sorry for the inconvenience this will cause families,” wrote Framingham Schools’ Executive Director of Finance and Operations, Lincoln Lynch. “I felt the need to alert you now instead of at a later August date. Please know that we are doing our best to provide as many ineligible riders with transportation as possible.”
Officials said elementary school children who live less than two miles from their schools may be the most impacted, as state law does not require bus service for students who live so close. In a crunch, these students may be the most likely to go without regular bus service.
Previous bus driver shortages were alleviated when National Guard members were brought in to help around the state during a COVID-related worker shortage. However, Framingham officials said Guard drivers were only trained to drive smaller vans that serve special needs students, rather than the larger, yellow buses at stake.
The company Framingham Public Schools contracts to provide bus drivers said it is trying to hire more, including via a recruiting drive in the city next week.
NRT Bus Inc. and its parent company, Beacon Mobility, said in a statement that with a national driver shortage going on, “NRT Bus has launched several recruiting efforts and made significant progress to recruit more bus and van drivers to prepare for the upcoming school year.”
“We are in constant communication with our school districts as we approach the first day of school, and are working on additional planning to ensure that students are transported safely to and from school each day,” said Tim Sheehan, senior vice president of New England for Beacon Mobility.
Another option Framingham officials are considering involves having an “extra run” of school buses that would ensure all students have access to a bus, with some starting the school day late.
The first day of school for grades 1-12 is Wednesday, Aug. 31.
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