Milford schools

Bus driver shortage continues to plague New Milford schools

NEW MILFORD – School bus drivers are in short supply this year. And in New Milford, that essential part of daily morning and afternoon commutes has proven to be an ongoing problem.

Since starting school, New Milford has struggled to maintain a consistent bus schedule with its transportation provider, All-Star Transportation, sometimes forced to change or cancel morning and after-hours routes. noon if there are not enough drivers to take charge of the buses.

The interruptions to the bus lines that began in September continued throughout the district. This week alone, at least four buses had changed schedules, either not running in the morning, or in the afternoon, or sometimes both.

At a regular board meeting on Nov. 16, DiCorpo told school board members that the district has experienced “daily shortages with the bus company” and that “they have worked very diligently to fulfill their needs. obligations to our district by finding other drivers from other bus depots.

“For a few days, it became very difficult. They had a full fleet today, and we are very grateful to them for that. We hope they will be able to maintain it, ”added DiCorpo.

Still, DiCorpo reported this week reports showing that the problems persist, with All-Star reporting that “a few buses” would not work and “they were different every day,” according to the superintendent.

All-Star serves the districts of Newtown, Brookfield, Torrington and Ansonia. This fiscal year, New Milford disbursed approximately $ 4.1 million to All-Star under its transport contract, a 3% increase from the previous year. This is the fourth year of a five-year district contract.

The company has not responded to the News-Times since September, when the newspaper first asked for comment.

Current issues

Once again this week, the 28 bus could not run on Wednesday afternoon and the parents were notified that morning, DiCorpo wrote to the News-Times.

Three buses – bus 12, bus 27 and bus 34 – were unable to make the morning and afternoon trips on Tuesday. Bus 34 was also out of service on Monday afternoon.

“All-Star Transportation has notified the district as soon as possible if errands cannot be completed and we are advising parents and schools shortly thereafter,” DiCorpo wrote. “Schools also did a tremendous job working directly with parents on afternoon transport changes that prevented bus trips. “

DiCorpo explained at the November board meeting that staff were ordered not to mark late students if they arrived late by car with a parent due to route changes.

“We are doing our best to get the message out so parents can make decisions,” said DiCorpo.

But some parents have expressed their frustration online.

Parents in New Milford are now intimately familiar with the bus driver shortage and are posting articles about it in local Facebook groups. Their posts show how abrupt schedule changes impact their lives, with some having to unexpectedly change their children’s transportation plans on short notice.

“Why is it always bus 12?” A man asked on a local New Milford Facebook page on December 7. “No more driver. I had to take my daughter to school, then come home and get the other one ready for her bus, ”he commented further down in the post.

“It was also the 27 bus,” commented another relative. “So I had to drop my eldest [sic] then I dropped my youngest in kindergarten.

A woman replied on the line, saying, “We, the drivers, do several errands. We are doing our best! ”Several parents also expressed their support and love for the drivers who drove their children every morning and afternoon.

Resolve existing issues

The shortage of bus drivers is a local as well as a national problem, felt by districts across the country. In Connecticut, a COVID-19 vaccination warrant may also have played a role in the loss of a few drivers.

However, a walkout in the Danbury area this fall during the tenure reported only a handful of missing drivers.

This fall, the general manager of All-Star Transportation in Waterbury, told a local news station that it was “the worst shortage we have ever seen” and that there was only 15 to 20% of their drivers.

Still, the company appears to be working hard to try to recruit new drivers.

A Facebook post on the company page talks about incentives: “All-Star Employees – Want to earn extra $$$? Before offering a referral bonus of $ 1,500. “Step 1 – Refer a friend. Step 2 – Get PAID !!. Step 3 – Repeat steps 1 and 2,” it read.

Additionally, last month All-Star launched several hiring events, promoted on their social media page, for areas like Torrington, New Milford, Newtown and Seymour. On Indeed.com, the company hires bus drivers for several of its locations, including Washington, Oxford, New Milford, Brookfield, Litchfield, Thomaston, and 11 other regions.

However, New Milford appears to be an outlier when it comes to bus line issues related to driver shortages.

Brookfield Superintendent John Barile said the district, which is also served by All-Star, currently has enough drivers and has not experienced any issues covering routes in recent times.

While Region 12 does not have enough All-Star backup drivers, it does have enough to staff all 17 routes in its district, according to Superintendent Megan Bennett.

“All-Star has shared drivers between the districts to help meet any needs. They’ve gone so far as to use office staff and licensed supervisors to drive when the need arises, ”Bennett wrote in an email to The News-Times. “All-Star continues to be a great partner with Region 12 and has alerted us to potential issues with bus transportation. “


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