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Lingering labor shortage means there are 'just enough' bus drivers at some western Mass. schools

Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
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Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

As the school year begins, some schools districts in central and western Massachusetts are facing challenges finding bus drivers, according to the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.

Tom Scott, executive director of the association, said there are unique challenges to being a bus driver, such as the hours — a few in the morning, a few in the afternoon — and the responsibility of transporting children. He said in the past few years a lot of school bus drivers left their jobs. This year, he said finding enough drivers is a little easier, at least in eastern Massachusetts.

"Certainly we're hearing in the western part of the state that the challenges remain and that it's going to take some more time to shake through this problem," Scott said. "We've got a general workforce issue in a lot of different areas and I think drivers is one example of that."

Peter Dillon, the superintendent of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, which includes Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge, said the Massini Bus Company, which provides bussing in that region, has enough drivers, but not an abundance.

"We're getting by. We have just enough but if drivers are sick or out, then the owner of the company is driving," Dillon said.

Massini Bus Company could not be reached for comment.

Dillon said school bus drivers are critical partners with school educators.

"They're not social workers, but they're building positive relationships with kids," he said. "They're keeping them safe. They're getting them to and from home. And then if somebody's having a tough day, ideally the bus driver flags it for us later in the day."

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.