© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hundreds Of School Bus Drivers Could Stay Home Over Vaccine Mandate

As school districts nationwide grapple with bus driver shortages, Connecticut faces a potential bus driver “walkout” as the governor’s vaccine mandate becomes effective Monday.

Hundreds of school bus drivers refuse to get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, which means they won’t be able to do their jobs. That's leaving parents at their wit’s end with getting their kids to school. The shortage continues to fuel tension between schools and families, as students experience bus delays, schedule reductions or buses not showing up.

Waterbury Public Schools said it’s in constant communication with its two school bus contractors, All-Star Transportation and Durham School Services, which are doing everything they can to get most of their drivers tested by this week.

For Superintendent Verna Ruffin, it’s important that students have consistency being back in school and that parents not have to worry if their kids are going to class on time and getting home safely.

“If bus drivers are not going to get vaccinated or not be eligible to drive ... then, yes, it continues to [exacerbate] a situation that we have that’s caused a lot of hardship for the district,” Ruffin said.

Fran Rabinowitz, executive director for the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said bus companies have asked for a moratorium against vaccinations, something she doesn't agree with because they work closely with children.

“If they don’t want to be vaccinated and they don’t want to be tested, where do we go?” Rabinowitz asked.

In the meantime, she said districts are working with families on short-term solutions, like having parents drive their children or having teachers who are certified drive small vans.

“We may be reduced to that for a period of time in order to get our children to school,” Rabinowitz said.

The same story repeated itself at New Britain Public Schools, where interim Transportation Manager Richard Valerio said they have just enough bus drivers to get by. The vendors they work with are training new drivers, but that will take time to implement.

Hartford Public Schools also said scheduling bus drivers for the district has been challenging. But by working closely with its bus vendor, the district has been able to ensure 100% bus driver coverage this school year. Officials don’t expect any issues Monday.

Ruffin hopes everyone will keep students first in their minds.

“I would ask everyone to think of their actions and how it affects children before doing anything that could potentially harm them,” she said.

Copyright 2021 Connecticut Public Radio

Catherine Shen