Did you know that, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, you would need more than 17 million is cars to transport the students currently riding to school on school buses everyday, nationwide?

Needless to say, tens of millions of people depend on buses to get their kids to and from school safely.

Young Asian girl on school bus
Don Mason
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Here in Maine, there are so many rural spots that families send students to school from, that often times the school bus is a necessity. School buses allow Mom and Dad to make it to work on time. Or in families where there is only one shared vehicle or none at all, they are often the only way these kids make it to school.

That's why it's particularly troubling to me, as a parent, when I started to hear about the school bus driver shortage in our state, due to Covid 19. Bus drivers were either getting sick and not able to perform their jobs (or quarantining because of possible exposure to the virus) or just plain not interested in taking the risk to their health, of sitting on a bus with a bunch of kids. And I can't say that I blame them.

But as the Mainers relaxed a bit this summer, and it looked like things might become more stable, I had hope that this school year might be different.

Then the summer vacation came to an end just as Covid numbers started to surge again, and it seems some parents are once again being put in a precarious situation because of a shortage of bus drivers.

According to NewsCenter Maine, RSU 4, which includes the towns of Sabattus, Wales and Litchfield, had to ask parents to transport kids to school this week, as they had to temporarily cancel bus service due to a shortage of bus drivers.

Some school districts have been trying to be preemptive and give drivers incentives to apply.

In August, RSU 22, made up of Hampden, Newburgh, Winterport, and Frankfort, told NEWS CENTER Maine they are offering new incentives this year that they haven't in the past. Drivers who can start right away are eligible for a $600 signing bonus, and those who still need to get their bus driver's license can get a $300 bonus when they sign.

We're not even halfway into the first month of school, and these service cancellations don't bode well for what's to come, in my humble opinion. Fingers crossed both parents, drivers and the districts can make it work for the sake of the students.

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