The Riverhead Central School District faces a shortage of bus drivers that is exacerbated by late student registrations.
Students are registering late because many have moved into the district over the summer and others have changed elementary schools, officials said at the Board of Education meeting last Tuesday. When a large influx of students enters the district so close to the start of the school year, it is difficult to design and rethink bus routes to accommodate the extra volume, Deputy Superintendent Sam Schneider said during his presentation. .
Nearly 240 students registered in the neighborhood between August and the first 10 days of September. The Riverhead Charter School reported 54 new registrations between August 1 and September 10.
Mr Schneider said that as a result, every day the school district is understaffed by at least 10 drivers.
“Looking at the effect of missing 10 missing drivers on any given day, I would invite you to imagine what it would be like academically if we missed 10 teachers every day in a school. It would be academically disastrous, ”he said.
The driver shortage is a national problem, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Governor Kathy Hochul on Sunday announced a statewide initiative to address the issue in New York City.
The aim is to launch an awareness campaign among more than 550,000 commercial driver’s license holders in the state. The state will also target currently unemployed drivers through the Ministry of Labor. The state will also work with law enforcement, firefighters, the military and other organizations that have trained drivers to find more people interested in becoming school bus drivers.
The plan also includes measures to remove barriers to recruiting CDL drivers. The DMV is speeding up the CDL completion process by removing the 14-day waiting period between license testing and road tests, according to the governor’s office.
They are also opening new CDL drive test sites in partnership with SUNY, the Thruway Authority, the New York Racing Association and the General Service Office to use large lots at various sites for road testing. For school staff who currently hold a CDL, the state will offer expedited testing to obtain a license to temporarily drive vans and buses.
The state also encourages schools to be creative and offer a wide range of benefits to school bus drivers. Some suggestions included signing and retention bonuses and expanding benefits. Schools can use federal funds to provide these benefits, according to the governor’s office.
The Riverhead School District is also posting advertisements for jobs in Montauk newspapers in Huntington to recruit more staff.
The district-owned transport department employs 145 people and transports 5,914 students to and from 27 schools, including public schools, special education schools, non-public schools and charter school.