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  • September 03, 2021 1:29 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Click Here for the link to download the mandate from DOH.

    Interim NYSDOH Guidance For Classroom Instruction In P-12 Schools During The 2021-2022 Academic Year | September 2, 2021 

  • September 03, 2021 7:41 AM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Rockland/Westchester Journal News
    Written By: Gary Stern

    A worsening shortage of school bus drivers across the state and the country is hitting home in the Hudson Valley, including in Yonkers, where close to 500 new students may not be able to get a bus when the city's schools open next Thursday.

    New York's fourth largest school system transports about 11,300 students on 464 buses and vans. But private busing companies contracted by the district no longer have enough drivers to keep up with Yonkers' growing student enrollment.

    So parents and guardians may have to find other ways to get their kids to school.

    "We're working hard to resolve this, but we're at the mercy of the companies we contract with and they don't have enough drivers," Yonkers Superintendent Edwin Quezada said Thursday. "It's a nationwide problem."

    The district and its bus companies got a slight reprieve when the opening of school was delayed Thursday until Sept. 9 because of flooding.

    Across New York, many districts now have 15-20% fewer drivers than they need, said David Christopher, executive director of the New York State Association of Pupil Transportation.

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    "Almost every school I talk to has routes open for the start of school," he said. "It could be one or two, or 10 or 15, depending on the size of the school district. And everyone needs substitutes because people call in sick."

    COVID worsens shortage

    A shortage of drivers had been developing for years when the COVID pandemic quickly exacerbated the problem for schools. Drivers are traditionally older, often retired, and many left their jobs to lower the risk of getting sick.

    "Our demographic is high risk — older and often with health concerns," said Tammy Mortier, executive director of the New York School Bus Contractors Association. "A lot of drivers didn't want to be around children and put themselves at risk."

    About one third of New York's nearly 700 school districts have their own fleets of buses and hire their own drivers, while two thirds of districts contract with private busing companies.

    Enhanced unemployment benefits have also enticed many drivers to stay home, Christopher and Mortier agreed. They believe the expiration of enhanced benefits on Sept. 6 could draw more people to driving jobs.

    But another challenge is that it can take up to 12 weeks in New York for a prospective driver to get the required training and certification to drive a school bus.

    Most drivers in New York are part-time and wages vary. Upstate drivers make $13-15 an hour, while downstate drivers can make twice as much, Christopher said.

    The Wappingers school district consolidated bus routes for the new school year, eliminating the need for 15 drivers, because of the ongoing driver shortage. The district has its own fleet of buses, but began contracting last year with a private bus company to take over 35 routes because the district was short of drivers.

    "It's one of the most important things we do: make sure our students have a safe ride to and from school," Wappingers Superintendent Dwight Bonk said.

    Wappingers should be able to bus all eligible students for the start of the school year, But the district is still displaying "Now Hiring" banners on buses at three schools that advertise the need for drivers and monitors.

    Chestnut Ridge Transportation, a Spring Valley-based company that provides busing to the East Ramapo, Suffern and Pearl River districts, still doesn't have quite enough drivers for the start of the school year, Vice President Tim Flood said.

    "We're short a few routes, but fortunately two districts haven't started yet so we have a little time to get people in the seats," he said.

    Flood said the company has about 350 drivers but would prefer to have over 400. So dispatchers and other office workers may have to drive when schools open.

    "There isn't a quick solution, so we're working with school districts to make routes as efficient as possible," Flood said. "We need flexibility."

    No subs

    Even many school district and bus companies that have just enough drivers to start the school year say they don't have substitutes, which can present day-to-day problems as the year progresses.

    Quality Bus Service, a New Hampton-based company that serves the Chester and Sparrowbush area in Orange County, lost about 40% of its drivers and is now barely 100% staffed after raising its hourly rate by $2. But the company would prefer to be at 105-110% of staffing so back-up drivers would be available.

    First Student, a national bus company that serves at least 75 districts in New York, including Yonkers, has tried several strategies over the last year to hire more drivers, including doing more recruiting, holding open houses, and offering higher wages and signing bonuses, said spokesman Brian Fitzgerald.

    "We've been working on everything, but the boat doesn't turn that quickly because of the qualifications and certifications required," he said.

    Fitzgerald said First Student has about 4,000 drivers in New York but could use 400-600 more.

    School districts might want to contract with additional bus companies as the school year nears, but state law prohibits them from doing so for more than a month without a bidding process. Quezada said he talking to the state Education Department about whether it could be possible to temporarily change the rules.

    In the long term, officials said, school districts may have to work with the state Education Department and bus companies to raise the status of the bus driving profession.

    "Bus driving has been seen like a retirement job or second job, but with the certification requirements that are in place, it's more of a profession," Christopher said. "We have to do more to attract people to the profession, and that means more pay and better benefits. But you also have to raise the profile; driving is a community service."

    Staff Writer Helu Wang contributed to this report.

    Gary Stern is an editor/writer covering K-12 education in the Hudson Valley. Reach him at Twitter: @garysternNY.

    Click here to view the article online.

  • August 25, 2021 9:06 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    WNBC-TV News 4 New York
    Live Report: Greg Cergol
    Bay Shore, Long Island

    The school year is just around the corner – and school bus companies say they’re having trouble hiring drivers. Greg Cergol reports.

    Frank Klein with Suffolk Transportation Service stated job applications are down over 60%. The impact could be unsettling for parents with long wait times at bus stops, possible cancellations of routes, and parents may be required to bring kids to school in certain areas.

    Click here to view the live report.

  • August 25, 2021 8:26 AM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Times Union Article
    Written By: Rachel Silberstein

    New York schools are struggling to hire bus drivers and other non-instructional staff as they prepare to reopen at full capacity in early September.

    More than 40 percent of school districts anticipate a transportation staffing gap between 15 percent and 20 percent, according to a statewide survey conducted in June and July by the New York School Bus Contractors Association.

    While drivers are often in high demand, "COVID didn't help the situation," said Tammy Mortier, the association's executive director. "Many of the drivers are not returning, whether it's due to health issues or concerns or vaccination hesitancy. Many drivers fall into the high-risk category."

    Enhanced federal unemployment benefits and the child tax credit are compounding the problem, she said. Candidates are still applying to be drivers, but some of those potential candidates are applying as a means to provide supporting documentation for unemployment benefits.

    "When unemployment runs out in September, we hope to see some of them coming back, but we need to put the schedules in place now," Mortier said.

    The School Bus Contractors Association, which works with 300 New York school districts, is helping its members to find drivers by supporting their recruitment efforts and helping in communication with state agencies to get new drivers licensed and certified to take the wheel. It can take up to 12 weeks for a new candidate to be able to drive a bus.

    Schools are actively recruiting drivers through increased advertising, open houses and hiring events, and by raising wages and sign-on bonuses.

    The Bethlehem school district is going into the new school year with 20 fewer drivers than it had pre-COVID and has launched a series of aggressive in-person and online recruitment campaigns.

    "We hope people know that while you need to have a clean driver's license, you don't need experience or a CDL ... that training comes from professional trainers we have on staff,"  Bethlehem spokeswoman Jo Ellen Gardner said in a statement. "As our Director of Transportation Karim Johnson likes to say, 'Our most successful driver candidates have never driven anything larger than a Toyota Camry.'" 

    Driver salaries at Bethlehem are starting at $19.47/hour for substitute drivers; $19.67/hour for regular drivers plus benefits.

    To make it work, school districts are working with the drivers they currently have on flexible pickup and drop-off times and adjusted sporting schedules. Delaying sports will allow drivers time to return from their usual routes to pick up students from practice.

    Districts have many new roles to fill to address educational gaps and social-emotional needs exacerbated by the health crisis, but the shortages seem largely relegated to non-instructional positions, which would not prevent schools from reopening at full capacity this fall. 

    In South Colonie schools, the demand for hall monitors, food service help, clerical work, and custodial workers does not seem to match the supply, spokeswoman Kara Granato said.

    "All these positions play a critical role in the experience our children have on our buses and in our schools.  They are essential to our organization and we need them to function efficiently," she said.

    East Greenbush and Mohonasen public schools are short on teaching assistants, school officials said. The Ballston Spa district is seeking cafeteria workers. 

    Click here to view the article online.

  • August 23, 2021 5:18 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    The NYC vaccine mandate for the Department of Education teachers and staff does NOT apply to bus drivers, at this time.

    Gotham Government Relations Update
    Nicole Epstein, Esq., Senior Associate

    According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spoke about the mandate in a press conference on Staten Island on Monday, the City’s new mandate will impact about 1480,000 DOE employees, including teachers, principals, kitchen workers, and custodians. According to a department spokesperson, the policy does not apply to DOE contracted employees like bus drivers and educators and staff working in 3-ks and preschools not located in DOE buildings. Employees at 3k and preschools not located in DOE buildings are still subject to the mayor’s vaccination or test policy.

    Kevin Moran, Chief School Operations Officer at the New York City Department of Education, clarified that today’s City Hall announcement was specific to all NYCDOE staff and NYCDOE contractors working in school-based settings. At the current moment, this DOES NOT include school bus drivers, aides, etc. However, there is currently an ACTIVE conversation about including bus drivers in the future, especially for the Type A and Type B buses serving special education schools that tend to have longer routes and more difficulty having the children wear masks, etc.

    In sum, as of today, there is no mandate for school bus drivers. However, this might change in the near future.

    AMNY Article

    NYTimes Article

  • August 23, 2021 11:04 AM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

  • August 05, 2021 12:48 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Politico: No school guidance from state DOH this fall, superintendents told

    The Cuomo administration has advised superintendents that neither the governor's office nor the state health department will be issuing guidance for schools reopening this fall, according to a group representing superintendents. . . . . . . . click here

  • June 14, 2021 1:14 PM | Anonymous

    This page includes several resources in a box to the right to include the:  e-Learning Training Providers Guide to ELDT, factsheet, countdown checklist, curricula summary, training overview and a March 4 webinar for training providers. Click Here

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