Bus driver shortages are being felt across the Cape & Islands. Nantucket sporting events were postponed last year due to the inability of Cape schools to find available drivers. This year, the crisis is being felt even harder on the island, prompting superintendent Beth Hallett to tell the school committee on Tuesday that conversations need to be had to combat this issue such as possibly changing the start and end times of school days.
“We have three drivers who are certified to drive the large buses,” Hallett said. “Cape Cod Collaborative (an organization that provides instructional and support services) has tried really hard to fill these positions.”
Hallett said they have a fourth driver currently in training, but they will not be available until mid-October.
“In the meanwhile, we must make do with three drivers and three buses, which means double runs, combined routes, and in some cases long school bus rides for our students. We have really left no stone unturned. We have been working all summerlong with Cape Cod Collaborative trying to figure out what to do. We have to seriously consider a solution for next year. I hope to start the conversation and get some input and feedback around possibly staggering our start times. The bus driver shortage is not going to go away so we are going to have to make some adjustments.”
Hallett said changing the start and end times for school days was not an option for the schools this year because they needed more time to give advanced notice to families, rather than throw that change onto them in the summer just months or weeks before the school year was slated to begin.
“I do hope we can all continue to be as patient as possible with the limitations we find ourselves in and hopefully by mid-October we will have that fourth person and that will lighten the load and reduce the extra runs and longer routes,” she said.
Hallett said the change could be as small as a half-hour. She said there are many variables that come into play that need to be considered such as older siblings in the school system who take care of younger siblings before and/or after school, traffic patterns, bus routes, and sports.
“If we don’t have the conversation and we don’t start it then we will never know. We are going to need to have an advisory group and a steering committee to talk about that with people from the community, parents, us as well,” she said.
Committee member Laura Gallagher, Nantucket’s representative to the CCC, said the island is in “the worst and dire straits” with this driver shortage but confirmed this is an issue plaguing many other school districts.
Hallett said they have had people on island with a commercial driver’s license express an interest in becoming a bus driver, but Hallett said it takes 60 hours of practicum work and a passed driving test to be certified to transfer people. The state specifically requires 32 hours behind the wheel and 28 hours in the classroom.
These drivers haven’t received these certifications, and the path to getting it on Nantucket is particularly difficult as well.
“Here on the island, we don’t have a training location so the Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t have a location to test or do training here on the island,” Hallett said. “Any drivers that might be interested are expected to go off island to do that training.”
She added that they do provide space for the classroom training, which is what they did with this fourth driver expected to begin next month. The CCC sent a trainer over to the island to teach the course.
“The actual driving hours and practicum piece they will have to do in Hyannis or another location on the Cape,” Hallett said.
If you have an interest in becoming a bus driver for the Nantucket Public Schools, you can apply by following this link, filling out the form, and sending it to the address listed at the bottom of the document.