The governor of Massachusetts activated the State National Guard on Monday to help transport students to school, a growing problem in states across the country.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has said 250 members of the Guard will be available to serve as school transport van drivers. They will begin training on Tuesday, and around 90 of them will initially be deployed to four different cities north of Boston – Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn.
Guard troops will undergo vehicle training like any school transport worker and will use transport vans known as “7D vehicles,” not the familiar yellow school buses, according to the governor’s office.
“The shortage is not going away”:COVID-19 pandemic amplifies concerns over shortage of school bus drivers
It is not known how long the guard would help with the buses or how many districts would receive assistance. But Baker stressed that the transport functions would not interfere with the Guard’s ability to respond to other major emergencies in the state.
“The Guard has a proven track record in supporting civilian authorities,” Baker said in a statement. “Their frequent side-by-side training with local and national first responders makes them ideally suited for a variety of missions. “
The shortage of school bus drivers is not confined to Massachusetts.
In Rochester, New York, a school district had planned to start the school year remotely because of numerous resignations of bus drivers. They eventually decided to have an in-person apprenticeship, but asked parents to drive their children to school or take them for a walk.
The shortages affected a large number of children, including disabled children who had been guaranteed a bus service.
In an Oregon school district, the first day of school was delayed after an employee died of COVID-19 and some bus drivers had to quarantine themselves. Last week, Milwaukee Public Schools said the district was short of about 100 drivers for its fleet of 700 buses.
In Gloucester County, New Jersey, the Glassboro School District cut its school days by about 45 minutes for middle and high school students due to a lack of bus drivers.
As of Monday afternoon, the United States recorded 41.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 661,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 178 million Americans – 53.8% of the population – have been fully immunized, according to the CDC.
Contribute: The Associated Press.