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'There Could Be Some Disruption In Service,' Districts Scrambling To Find School Bus Drivers

BOSTON (CBS) - The labor shortage has hit just about every industry, and as kids prepare to start classes, parents should be aware that school districts are also short-handed. Many schools need teachers, cafeteria workers and other support staff, but the most widespread problem is bus drivers.

"School bus drivers don't grow on trees," explained John McCarthy, CEO of NRT Bus, one of the largest school transportation providers in the state. "They are highly trained at what they do. It's hard enough to take care of their own kids, never mind 72 kids on a regular basis."

McCarthy told us he's about 300 drivers short for the start of the school year. He says part of the reason is that many drivers are retirees and are still fearful of COVID-19. Also, there's a shortage of drivers at all kinds of companies, so there is a lot of competition for drivers with CDL licenses.

So, what does that mean for families?

According to McCarthy, his company will get all the kids to school, but the first few weeks could be bumpy.

"For districts, there could be some disruption in service," he told WBZ-TV. That could mean some kids need to get picked up early so the bus can do a second run. Other kids might be late for that first bell.

Districts are trying all kinds of things to recruit drivers. Marlborough put out a video on social media to help NRT recruit drivers for its schools. It's offering to pay $20 an hour for the 60-hour training course and is combining cafeteria shifts to create full-time jobs for those who want it. They are also offering a $1,000 signing bonus and reaching out to parents with information on driving opportunities.

Kimberly Upton is a mother of two in Dracut, and she took her town up on a similar offer. She's training with NRT and is expected to take her CDL road test just a few weeks before the start of school. The bonus? She'll get to drive her own kids to school.

"It's an important job and I can't wait to do it," she said.

Like restaurants who are asking their patrons to be kind to the workers who showed up, McCarthy hopes parents will be patient during the first few weeks of school.

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