By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) —  All across the United States, there’s a shortage of school bus drivers. The issue is so severe, even the youngest riders notice it.

Violett Yang is an elementary student in Clarkesville, Md. In an interview with WJZ reporter Ava-joye Burnett, she said “Every seat has like 2 to 3 people in it, and a lot of the times kindergartners are squeezing in one seat.”

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Violett’s mother said things have improved since the first couple of days in the school year.

“I feel like the first one or two days was a huge mess. The bus delayed at the beginning and sometimes picked up the wrong kids,” says Wang. But Wang also said the district is doing the best they can.

“We’re short of school bus drivers this is a fact, it’s like a risky job. I think during the pandemic it’s even harder to find qualified school bus drivers,” says Wang.

In Howard County, some high schoolers get picked up at six in the morning then the same driver goes back for a second set of high school students.

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“I’m extremely disappointed that we are picking up our high school students at 6 a.m.,” says Deb Jung, a member of the Howard County Council. “I am a very strong supporter of starting school later for our high school students. They are literally not awake.”

CBS News reported that more than 50-percent of school districts in the United States said their driver shortage is “severe” or “desperate.”

A quick Google search shows that several Maryland counties are hiring. And this weekend, MDOT MVA will have a “Bus Drivers’ Day” at select MVA locations to help expedite the licensing process. Click here for additional details.

Drivers are worried they’ll be exposed to COVID-19. There is no clearly reported correlation, but Baltimore City schools say drivers call out often.

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“When we have to call a family at seven o’clock, you’ve already planned to go to work at eight a.m. and to say that the bus isn’t coming and they all quickly have to find another option to get their child to school and child care. That’s a huge problem,” says Dr. Lynette Washington, COO of Baltimore City Public Schools.

Ava-joye Burnett