By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
SHREWSBURY – Nearly 4,000 students are riding the school bus in Shrewsbury this year.
That’s an increase of almost 500 students since an initial June 30 deadline for registrations passed, Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Finance Patrick Collins reported during a Sept. 8 School Committee meeting.
A total of 3,997 students are registered to ride the bus.
However, Collins noted that it’s about five percent below pre-pandemic rates.
“[That] is actually higher than I expected,” Collins said. “That’s, I think, a really good thing because we have pressure at all of our schools, with some more than others, with traffic problems.”
There are also 212 students who either attend private schools or Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School.
Shrewsbury has a contract with A.A. Transportation through 2022-2023, operating 246 bus routes daily.
Collins said Shrewsbury got a late start on its bus registration because of uncertainty about Shrewsbury’s operational override vote, which passed in this year’s town election on May 4.
“We weren’t quite sure about funding for lots of things, including the opening of the new school and redistricting and all of those things,” Collins said. “We couldn’t really ask people to sign up for busing until that event occurred.”
Late registration causes what Collins called a “perennial problem,” forcing the district to add extra bus stops or extend bus routes.
It also causes changes for other students on the bus.
“Overall, I would say that the performance and execution of the plan was well-done by our contractor,” Collins said.
No bus driver shortage for Shrewsbury
Families were asked to register their children and pay relevant fees prior to June 30 to guarantee space on a bus.
Though that deadline has passed, bus registration is still open, and Shrewsbury still has capacity on its buses.
Districts across Massachusetts and nationwide have reported a shortage of bus drivers.
On Sept. 13, that prompted Gov. Charlie Baker to activate the National Guard to assist towns experiencing the most severe shortages.
Shrewsbury, however, has not experienced such problems.
“We’ve been very fortunate in Shrewsbury where our provider A.A. Transportation has been able to maintain their drivers and monitor staffing at very high levels,” Collins said.
There was only one open permanent driver position at the beginning of the school year, he said. Collins said A.A. Transportation is working to fill it, including advertising on billboards and on the radio.
“So, we’re in a very, very good position with our staffing through our contractor for school bus drivers,” Collins said.