Tocsin Magazine reached out to Monroe School Transportation to learn more about the shortage of school bus drivers. The representatives were available and willing to answer our questions.
Tocsin: Does Monroe School Transportation provide busing services to the Rochester City School District?
Tocsin: How many RCSD students does your company provide transportation services for?
MST: Depending on the year, 600-1000 students.
Tocsin: On September 1 the community was notified of a bus driver shortage that impacted RCSD students across the city. When was your company aware that there weren't enough bus drivers to provide adequate transportation to city students?
MST: Initially, we still had nearly 50 drivers on furlough due to the reduced routes through COVID. When the drivers were recalled this summer to come back for this fall, a large number of these drivers did not return. At the end of July, due to limited responses, we knew that drivers may not return as planned, and we notified the district of our current staffing but that we were still reaching out to the furloughed drivers.
Tocsin: Did Monroe School Transportation provide proper notification of a bus driver shortage to the RCSD staff? If so, what & when?
MST: See answer above for the initial communication. After the end of July, we did gain 10 drivers in August, but we also had 21 drivers back out of working within two weeks before school started.
Tocsin: Do you know when Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small was notified of the shortage?
MST: We communicated the staffing levels to the Transportation Department. It was unknown until the beginning of September the amount of overall drivers that would be needed.
Tocsin: Is it true that Monroe School Transportation is transporting some RCSD students from different schools on busses together?
MST: That is incorrect. There are different tiers within each route for each school.
Tocsin: Is there any truth to students being dropped off at the wrong school?
MST: Our routes are determined by the district since they route the children. There can be mistakes made on routing at any school district, especially in the beginning of the school year. We work with the district to help make any identified changes needed to correct routes.
Tocsin: Does Monroe School Transportation provide busing services for other districts?
MST: Yes, we have had multiple contracts at our location over the years, but the driver pool is very limited and there are different types of transportation. We operate small buses and minivans for the district for their special needs program, typically not big buses or white shuttle work.
Tocsin: Do you know why other districts in the Monroe county area weren't impacted as severely as RCSD students?
MST: We have been contacted by other districts in Monroe County to help with their driver shortages, but have been unable to help due to our shortage.
Tocsin: The superintendent stated this is a “civil rights” issue. Do you believe race played a role in how the shortage of bus drivers impacted a predominantly Black & Brown school district?
MST: Not that we have seen.
Tocsin: What is the truth behind the shortage of bus drivers? Across the state there are large driver shortages in many districts and education programs.
MST: On average, across the state, everyone is seeing a shortage of at least 10-20%. Reasons that have impacted contractors and districts at different levels include an older dynamic of employees that do not want to chance getting sick driving unvaccinated children, people that have left the industry due to higher paying jobs in the same or other industries, people that are remaining on unemployment, people that have lost childcare, and people that have moved to other areas.
Tocsin: What would you like the community to know about Monroe School Transportation?
MST: Regarding the contractors for the RCSD district, Monroe School Transportation is the only contractor that typically operates small buses and minivans while working with special needs children. We bring drivers into training to learn how to operate those smaller vehicles, get comfortable with the expectations of transportation of special needs school children, then learn to drive a big bus when they are ready. Driving a bigger bus allows them to pick up additional hours with charters outside of regular school hours. Starting with the smaller vehicles also allows the driver to operate a route that has an average of 6 children on the route, not a full bus of students.
MST: We are always looking for great drivers. We encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a positive force in helping students get to school safely, on time, and ready to learn, to join the National Express/Monroe Transportation team. Individuals interested in becoming a part of the National Express/Monroe Transportation team as a school bus driver can learn more and apply here.