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School bus shortage leaves students stranded

Aug 31, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

A shortage of bus drivers in New Hampshire has left some Northwood students without a ride to school.

While many Granite State school districts have been dealing with a lack of qualified bus drivers, the situation in Northwood intensified last spring when Northwood Transportation, the local bus provider, went out of business with a year left in their contract with SAU 44.

Scheduling provides a temporary solution

Earlier this month, Northwood school officials announced that the school day would be shifted back by two hours, running from 10 am to 4:30 pm. This change allows time for bus drivers from other towns to finish their normal routes and drive to Northwood. However, the school day at Coe-Brown Academy, the regional high school, could not be changed, leaving around 200 Northwood students without any public transportation to school.

Superintendent Robert Godomski says he has reached out to every bus company in a 100-mile radius but none could offer him permanent help.

Causes for the crisis

Some blame the low unemployment rate in New Hampshire for the shortage in part-time help many New Hampshire schools and businesses are experiencing.

Northwood has taken to offering large signing bonuses to entice new drivers. Still, only two people are currently enrolled in the bus driver training program. Four more are needed to reinstate the Northwood bus routes.

One solution to the driver shortage might be to offer greater incentives to would-be drivers. The Northwood School Board, in cooperation with Epsom’s Dail Transportation, recently increased starting bonuses from $3,000 to $4,500. Should this latest increase fail to entice more new drivers, the School Board could offer even higher signing bonuses or other additional benefits.

Alternative solutions

Those opposed to this solution might support taking a more unconventional approach. Some have suggested hiring Uber drivers or calling in the National Guard to ease the transportation crisis until a more permanent solution is found. This would require changing the current state statutes, which require elementary schools to offer transportation by licensed school bus drivers. Still others want officials to find ways of expediting the 6-to-8 week bus driver certification process to get applicants in the driver’s seat faster.

What do you think? Should the Northwood School Board offer even higher signing bonuses for bus drivers? Or, should the school explore other options for solving the crisis? Perhaps you have an idea in mind—leave your opinion in the comment section below.

Interested in driving a school bus in Northwood? Call the SAU 44 office at 603-942-1290 to begin the certification process.

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