BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo parents are demanding school officials figure out how to solve a severe shortage of bus drivers.
In a meeting of community leaders, Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns said he wants to help.
Parents and school officials are calling it a “transportation crisis” and one of the obstacles to getting more drivers behind the wheel is the lengthy certification process.
“We are saying before somebody gets hurt pay the parent to bring the children to school. We are saying have a sense of urgency, like it is your child,” Sam Radford, a Buffalo school parent, said.
These parents and civic leaders gathered to send a message to the Buffalo Board of Education come up with a way to get more school bus drivers behind the wheel.
School Board member Terrance Heard believes the COVID pandemic has given drivers more options.
“They are frustrated with their jobs, they moved on to different careers and they see this was an outlet for moving on to a different career. So we’ve got to get people trained and back into driving and caring for our children,” Heard said.
Parents are also upset with the district’s 10-day rule if a student does not catch the bus for 10 consecutive days, they are removed from the roster.
Latrice Martin says that is wrong in so many ways.
“If the bus is not there by a certain time, I am taking my children to school because I want them there on time, or close to on time, as much as possible so they are not missing their first class before school starts,” Martin added.
The parents want to know why can’t the National Guard be activated to fill this crucial need like Massachusetts is doing.
“This is a crisis. These are our children. We recognize it as a crisis, we send people to assist,” Joel Moore with We The Parents said.
Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns says he will extend the hours at the Auto Bureaus to allow school bus driver candidates to take their permit tests and Governor Hochul is removing the waiting period between drivers taking their permit tests and their road test.
“We are in a pandemic. These are extraordinary times, we all will agree with that,” Kearns added.
And what about paying parents to drivee their kids to school?
“This is a major disruption to the average parent’s life. Think about not knowing if your child is going to get picked up. How do you concentrate at work if you don’t know if your child is going to get picked up?,” Radford added.
The parents realize the bus driver shortage is nationwide, but Buffalo’s problem seems more acute than neighboring school districts.
Board member Terrance Heard says he has contacted Superintendent Kriner Cash about holding a community wide meeting to come up with answers.