Montgomery County schools not likely to receive National Guard assistance for bus driver shortage

Montgomery County Public Schools is likely not getting National Guard assistance to help with its continued bus driver shortage, FOX 5 learned on Wednesday. A state official confirmed for FOX 5, there is no actual pending request.

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Dr. Earl Stoddard, the county’s Chief Administrative Officer clarified his remarks in a Wednesday virtual update, explaining that MCPS did reach out to the county for help, so the county made a request for help, asking for the National Guard if possible.

Stoddard said the county’s request was made back on Jan. 6 with follow-up questions provided by Jan. 8. The request included an ask for 200 bus drivers, but Stoddard clarified their chain of command process is to contact the Maryland Department of Emergency Management.

A state official told FOX 5 that 1,000 Maryland National Guard members were already activated to help with COVID testing, vaccination clinics and assistance at hospitals and nursing homes.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Montgomery County school officials call on National Guard amid bus driver shortage

"The request was submitted by the county's Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security as part of the Maryland Intrastate Emergency Management Assistance Compact (MIEMAC), which allows local jurisdictions around the state to assist each other whenever possible to help alleviate local resource needs.  This mirrors a national program run by the states known as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).  MDEM's role is to share the request among the 23 counties plus Annapolis, Baltimore and Ocean City, along with state agencies. If any of the jurisdictions or agencies can assist, MDEM would work to help coordinate the logistics of any assistance and to process the needed paperwork," read a response from Maryland Emergency Management’s spokesperson.

"We collectively in Montgomery County are not leaving any stone unturned when it comes to trying to address this shortage and really get at the heart of the issue, which is we’re all competing for the same cohort of individuals," said County Councilmember Craig Rice, who also chairs the education committee.

In a virtual news conference held by the council president and vice president, Rice said county and school leaders were also looking at reaching out to retired school bus drivers or veterans in the community who still have a Commercial Driver’s License.

An official with the Maryland National Guard also told FOX 5 they do have a transportation unit that could assist but many of those members do not hold a CDL.

County leaders also discussed the proposed vaccine passport in Wednesday’s meeting. Council President Gabe Albornoz described the county executive’s proposed measure as outdated and that it likely would not pass as it stands today.

READ MORE: Montgomery County considering COVID-19 vaccine passport proposal

County leaders said there are still several questions on enforcement and whether "boosted" should now be included in the definition of "fully vaccinated."

There’s also the question of how a vaccine passport now would encourage people to get vaccinated if exemptions are still required and even those boosted can share this latest Omicron variant.

The County Executive told me he still doesn’t think it’s too late for a vaccine passport, seeing the surge in hospitals. His Chief Administrative Officer made this comparison:

"You can go outside in the rain with a raincoat and umbrella and still get wet. That doesn’t mean it’s still not a good idea to wear a raincoat and umbrella when you’re outside in the rain, right?" said Dr. Earl Stoddard "When we’re talking about public health interventions, we’re not talking about case-by-case. We’re talking about population-based numbers. So on population basis, people who are vaccinated are less likely to be able to sustain transmission than people who are not vaccinated, so that’s the key to all of this."


MCPS is slated to hold a much anticipated virtual news conference Wednesday evening on the mountain of issues experienced after returning winter break.