Utica School Super Says Bus Driver Shortage is Real
When the Utica City School Board announced they were staying with their virtual learning model going into November because their bus company didn't have enough drivers to transport students, the bus company pushed back.
"Birnie Bus released a statement that countered the Board's accusation claiming, "The fact is Birnie Bus was never consulted about this decision and it is disingenuous for the District to try and blame Birnie Bus and our hardworking school bus drivers for a District’s decision not to follow its own previously announced plans. Nothing could be further from the truth!"
The Birnie Bus statement also detailed the fact that they weren't consulted in the decision making process. "It is disingenuous for the District to try and blame (us) and our hardworking school bus drivers for a District’s decision not to follow its own previously announced plans."
Superintendent Bruce Karam, speaking on WIBX's Keeler Show disagreed. Karam said they met with Birnie management and there were definitely not enough bus drivers to handle the hybrid learning model, and that didn't include having an adequate number of substitute drivers for when regular drivers need a day off. Karam stated the elementary students that need transportation total about 4000 students split in cohort A and cohort B.
Wouldn't 100 bus drivers be enough to transport the elementary students? "That's a good question," said Karam. "Due to New York State social distancing guidelines, we now can only fit a certain number of students in the classroom, and also on the bus.
"The Utica City School District was ready to open up and use the hybrid model, but if we don't have sufficient bus drivers, it can not be done," said Karam. "Especially with the cold weather coming, having students waiting on street corners waiting to be picked up."
Karam also said there is a contract dispute with Birnie Bus over the fact that the school district didn't pay the bus company when school was shut down, because they didn't provide a service to the district between March and June.
In the Birnie Bus statement, they stressed the fact that they was to continue their contract with the Utica district. "Birnie Bus nevertheless remains fully committed to our mission to provide school bus transportation services to the children of the Utica City School District. We hope the District will reevaluate its position and honor both its contractual obligations and its promise to begin in-person hybrid instruction," according to the statement.
The Utica School District has a student population of about 5,300 elementary students, and about 11,000 students K-12. About 85-percent of those students require bussing.
Listen to the interview with Bruce Karam here.