Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images
National Guard troops are used to being activated in times of natural disaster or civil unrest – but in Massachusetts, they are called upon to lead students to school.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s office said Monday that up to 250 members of the Guard would be made available “to address staff shortages in some districts,” according to a press release. He said 90 would immediately train for service at Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn.
The guard will take over driving duties on some 7D vehicles. Called “school transport vehicles”, 7D vehicles are generally vans.
The announcement comes amid a nationwide shortage of school bus drivers due to the ongoing pandemic, battles over masks and vaccines. As NPR reported earlier this month, in a recent national survey, half of student transportation coordinators described their shortage of school bus drivers as “severe” or “desperate.”
Shortages have been reported in places such as New York and Portland, Oregon, and in Montana, a school district is offering bonuses of $ 4,000 to new drivers.
The Massachusetts governor, discussing his state’s shortage, said: “Once it became pretty clear that there would be understaffed communities – it wasn’t going to be a vehicle problem, it would be people with [commercial driver’s licenses] – we started talking to the Guard. “
Baker said his office enlisted members of the Guard who already held such licenses for professional or Guard-related reasons.
“There are a bunch of communities that have said they are interested in this, and we’re happy to be able to help because it’s important,” Baker said.