East Ramapo schools face bus driver shortage as students return to class

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RAMAPO, New York (WABC) -- The pandemic has impacted the new school year in less obvious ways in New York, where one school district is dealing with a shortage of bus drivers.

Instead of being at work this afternoon, Mariella Eras was at Spring Valley High School picking up her sons who normally would have taken the bus home.

The East Ramapo School District is in the midst of a bus driver shortage, leaving nearly a thousand students in the district without transportation.

"In the morning we don't have bus for coming to the school. In the afternoon, nobody knows which bus because there is so many people we don't receive the bus pass," Eras said.

The problem isn't limited to East Ramapo -- it's nationwide. In Massachusetts, the governor is enlisting the national guard to help drive students.

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Thirty-three cases have been reported among students and 50 among teachers.

Depending on the region there are 10 to 20% fewer drivers. There are several reasons why: many are older and still concerned about the pandemic. The enhanced unemployment benefits that recently lapsed may have kept some from returning to work. While some with commercial driver's licenses have taken different jobs in the transportation industry.

"During the height of the pandemic when schools were on hybrid schedules or even entirely remote, we didn't have an opportunity to recruit drivers," said Cary Macysyn of the National School Transportation Association.

In East Ramapo, the district is short 27 drivers, affecting roughly 10% of students.

"There's always going to be challenges the first couple days of school, we ask that they please, please show some patience, we are working feverishly to address this need -- I feel for them," East Ramapo Schools Superintendent Clarence Ellis said.

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