District experiencing regular shortages caused by being understaffed and Covid-19
BY BRIANNA KELIN, STAFF WRITER
SANFORD, Maine – The Sanford School District, like many across the state, has struggled with sufficient bus transportation throughout the pandemic due to driver shortages, mainly caused by not having enough staff, trouble finding new applicants, and Covid-connected absences.
Due to these shortages, the district has had to get creative. First, they try to combine bus routes to help with the shortage. If they are unable to combine routes they have to cancel it and families need to get their children to school. When they have to close down routes, it sometimes has a negative impact on student attendance.
According to Steve Bussiere, Sanford’s Assistant Superintendent, the main reason for the shortage is caused by not having enough bus drivers and monitors. Bussiere also shared that, at one point a couple of weeks ago, the school was short five drivers and four monitors.
Another reason why routes have been canceled is because of Covid-19. Many drivers have needed to quarantine or be out of work for health-related reasons.
“It has been more of a challenge this year because we’re back to in-person learning five days a week, and there are more students that need to take the bus,” said Bussiere. “And that increased the number of students on the bus. And if there is a positive case of Covid-19, they need to contact trace the students on the bus. So that’s impacted more students in needing to be out of school when there is a cancelation or when they need to be out of school to quarantine.”
Sanford High School has a contract with Ledgemere Transportation, a contracted school bus service for several Central and Southern Maine school districts, according to their website.
Like many companies throughout the pandemic, Legemere has reportedly struggled to add drivers to their roster. Bussiere commented that some of the challenges to getting drivers are that while they have people applying and wanting to drive, they just don’t have that license to drive a bus, and earning it takes time.
However, according to Bussiere, in the month of November, Legemere hired two new drivers that are now on the road.
To help get more staff members, Ledgemere is offering a $1,500 sign-on bonus for anybody that comes on to drive for them. Also, if drivers bring people into work for the company, they get a bonus.
The school department and Ledgemere are trying their best to do everything they can to get kids to and from school every day and get the kids there on time and appreciate the help from parents as they continue to navigate this difficult challenge.