ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Families in Anne Arundel County are feeling what is being called a nationwide school bus driver shortage. Some say the shortage is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tuesday, dozens of families were impacted because of the shortage.READ MORE: School Bus Driver Shortage Continues To Impact Maryland
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman is calling the issue a crisis and said county buses in Annapolis are now offering to transport students to school for free.
“We’re into the first month and here we are starting it out like this, it’s terrible,” said Ryan Brooks, parent of AACPS student.
It’s an ongoing problem continuing to affect families.
“I got an email saying that bus routes are going to be shorted because we’re short bus drivers,” said Brooks.
School districts are in desperate need of bus drivers.
“It is a market issue, a labor market issue and we need to get more people driving buses, get them trained, get them hired,” said Pittman.
In Anne Arundel County, some parents report their children have been left stranded at bus stops due to no drivers showing up.
“So they get marked absent, they get punished for it and it’s not their fault,” said Brooks.READ MORE: Amid Driver Shortage, Maryland To Expedite Driving Tests & Credentials For School Bus Drivers
Brooks said he wouldn’t put his daughter on school transportation because of that reason.
“How do you work a full-time job in the morning, make sure your kids might get on the bus, might not and get them fully attended?” said Brooks. “If they have to work seven to three and make sure their child is at school at 7 o’clock also, and what if you only have one car and you have two parents?”
According to Anne Arundel County Public Schools website, about 24 bus routes were impacted Tuesday, with more than half without service and the rest showing delays.
“Particularly in the Annapolis cluster where one company is having the most problems, one of our contractors is having the most problems hiring staff and keeping them on to drive those buses,” said Pittman.
County and school officials said they’re working to fix the problem.
“I will be meeting with the contractors myself asking the question, what will it take to get them the incentives, any bonuses they need to be able to hire the drivers they need, we’re expediting that,” said Pittman.
It’s not just in Anne Arundel County, Howard, Harford, and Baltimore Counties along with Baltimore City are also dealing with a shortage of bus drivers.
“I don’t know what they plan on doing but if they don’t plan on doing it and doing it right soon, it’s going to cause an uproar somewhere,” said Brooks.
Governor Hogan is now calling on state agencies to expedite the licensing process for anyone who wants to be a school bus driver.MORE NEWS: Anne Arundel County Executive Releases Statement In Regards To School Bus Driver Shortages
This weekend, on Saturday, Sept. 25, MDOT MVA will host a “Bus Drivers’ Day” at select MVA locations to take steps to make sure school bus drivers are able to obtain proper testing and credentials as quickly as possible in order to help meet the needs of school systems across the state.