As parents send their kids to school and teachers submit lesson plans, School Transportation Director Matthew Braga is working to fill the ranks of the substitute bus drivers.
The town is facing a potential shortage of these drivers for the upcoming academic year. These drivers take over for full-time drivers when they are unable to operate a school bus for any reason. Braga said a possible reason for the lack of spare drivers is competition over hourly pay proposed by other school districts.
“There is fierce competition,” said Braga. “Our spare drivers receive 15 to 20 hours while our regular drivers receive approximately 30 hours a day.”
North Attleborough Public Schools has been conducting a widespread effort to recruit more substitute drivers for regular and specialized bus routes. Specialized bus routes are for students who need additional help with transportation, namely for medical or other individual needs. The routes have special stops for the students to safely and effectively access the bus.
Braga said he is reaching out to candidates who have applied for and did not receive the full-time position to work as a part-time driver. So far, he said he has not heard back from any applicants.
“With the few applicants we have, we are promoting and doing a spread to reach out to them to work as a substitute,” he said. “While benefits are important, what matters to these guys at the end of the day is what they are taking home.”
According to Braga, there are 18 regular and 17 specialized routes. Many North Attleborough students—-elementary, middle, and high schoolers—-depend on transportation by bus. Of those students, Braga said, “there are 1,700 students registered under our big bus routes and a ballpark number of 150 specialized riders.”
Other municipalities in Bristol and neighboring Norfolk county are facing similar shortages of substitute drivers, with signs displaying the words, “drivers wanted, will pay” at school bus depots or on the sides of roads.
In terms of full-time drivers, Barga said both the regular and specialized bus routes have a full staff. Nevertheless, Barga said there will be high demand for bus transportation and he hopes to have more drivers as the school year starts.
“We have our seats full, but we can always use more,” he said.