Groton seeking help from state amid school bus driver shortage

Groton

NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — Groton Public Schools has reached out to the state and others for help with a school bus driver shortage, something seen throughout the state.

The superintendent of schools, Susan Austin, said they started out with a shortage of five bus drivers. That, combined with other bus drivers calling in sick then not having substitutes, really posed a lot of challenges.

“His bus has not made it to school on time once,” Groton parent Amber Ware said. “There was actually one night that my son didn’t get home until 5:05, and he’s in first grade.”

Ware’s son may be among those most affected because he attends a magnet elementary school on the other side of town.

“Usually, the first couple of weeks are a little bumpy,” Austin said. “This has been the first couple of months. Each day, we were getting reports of two to three to five, up to 11 bus drivers out on any given day.”

Student Transportation of America (STA) runs the buses in town and brought in drivers from Greenwich. Austin said First Student, another bus company, also helped out a bit.

The school also reached out to other bus companies and the state. The National Guard cannot help with driving buses because of FEMA, but the state was able to help in another way.

The state’s Transportation Task Force suggested a small van option and has contacted 9,000 certified drivers in Connecticut to see if they could help.

“I would say that the state’s Transportation Task Force has done a really wonderful job in contacting the 9,000 bus drivers who are out there that are certified, and I think out of that 9,000, 200 are on the docket to support the bus transportation system, and they do have Groton as one that is on the list.”

Things are getting a bit better. Austin said two or three new bus drivers were hired last week and three others have passed certification requirements and could be driving soon.

“It is getting better already,” Ware said.

News 8’s Tina Detelj reached out to the bus company in Groton and was told no comment. However, bus companies all across the state are facing the same bus driver shortage and have really stepped up recruitment efforts.

“We’re just networking like crazy,” Austin said.

The town of Groton has even used parks and recreation buses to get the high school swim team to practice at Avery Point.

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