ANNE ARUNDEL CO., Md. (FOX 5 DC) - In Massachusetts, the National Guard is stepping up to help with the serious school bus driver shortage. It’s a national problem that’s even happening right here in the DMV. Will the governor’s in our region decide to mobilize soldiers to provide reliable transportation for students?
Right now, FOX 5 is still waiting to hear from Governor Larry Hogan’s office about that possibility, but Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman there has been no discussion about activating the national guard to drive students to and from school at this time.
However, parents here say they need to something quick to fix these continuing, stressful bus issues because it’s getting out of hand.
"I’m going to have to start picking them up in the afternoon and rearrange things during the day because I don’t have family or friends that can just drop everything and go pick them up, but as a mother – that’s my job. I have to make sure that my children are safe," Davi Dewberry, Anne Arundel County Public Schools parent.
"Oh, it’s awful like my daughter she cried all the way to school this morning. This is basically her first year in middle school even though she’s in 7th grade and she’s having major anxiety over the whole situation. She doesn’t know if she’ll be left at school, not have a bus to get picked up, it’s really taking a toll on both of them," said Cheryl Suite, Anne Arundel County Public Schools parent.
A webpage that gives updates on the status of buses for Anne Arundel County Public Schools parents shows today there are dozens of delays by more than 20 minutes and on top of that – 21 buses routes have no service.
This is causing parents to scramble last minute to get their children to and from school.
So what’s being done? Well, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman did a virtual zoom meeting this morning to address what he’s calling a school bus crisis. At this time, the county is looking for help outside the school district. For instance – they are adding three lines to their public transportation system to primarily serve the Annapolis cluster where contractors that operate school buses have the least amount of staff. The county will also have three – 26 seat – vehicles on standby at Westfield Mall to help with capacity. He says the simple solution is being able to hire more bus drivers, but it’s not as easy as it seems.
"I have heard anecdotal evidence, stories of companies literally waiting outside the lots where the buses are parked and stopping drivers and offering them jobs and incentives to move over to other companies so active competition among companies for CDL drivers and that includes bus drivers," said Pittman.
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The Anne Arundel County Executive adds he is looking into finding a way to provide incentives to recruit bus drivers, retain bus drivers, and get back the bus drivers – they lost.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam says they are not considering activating the National Guard at this time.