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School bus driver shortage hits athletics

NORTH CANAAN — A regional shortage of bus drivers has left school districts across the state scrambling to meet transportation demands. Region One schools have felt the pressure throughout the year as All-Star Transportation has struggled to fill driver vacancies.

Sam Herrick, business manager for Region One schools, said All-Star has been managing the daily routes to and from school, but extracurriculars have felt the shortage most of all.

“We only have one bus per day for athletic teams,” said Herrick. “Far from where it needs to be.”

Herrick said Athletic Director Anne MacNeil has had to juggle road games to facilitate scheduling for the teams. He added that All-Star has provided ads for the school to send out through their messenger system to attract drivers in the area.

“We’re really trying to partner with them and help them bring in some drivers,” said Herrick.

Steve Gardner, general manager at All-Star Transportation, said the shortage of drivers was exacerbated by the pandemic in recent years.

“Prior to COVID there was a shortage, but we were always able to make it work,” said Gardner. “COVID really hurt us bad.”

Gardner said that in the past, vacancies were often filled by retirees seeking part time work. Since the pandemic, in Gardner’s opinion, that demographic has “lost interest” due to the increased health risk.

With three more drivers retiring at the end of the year, All-Star is looking to hire six to eight drivers for Region One busing. Gardner said they are prioritizing North Canaan routes as two drivers are currently being pulled from another district to fill the need.

Positions start at $20 per hour and no prior bus driving experience is necessary. All-Star offers paid training and flexible part-time schedules. For more information call 860-435-0352 or visit all-startransportation.com.

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