WESTBOROUGH – Students and families in Westborough continue to feel the impacts of a bus driver shortage, district officials acknowledged earlier this month.
That problem still affects some despite a new bus driver hire and the rollout of a bus tracking app entitled “Where is My Kid.”
“For those that are still struggling with the bus driver shortage where it is causing an impact to your bus, we are sorry that that is still impacting you,” School Committee member Lisa Edinberg said at a School Committee meeting, Nov. 17. “It’s a terrible situation and it’s very frustrating and we agree that we must find solutions to that.”
Driver shortages cause delays, disruptions
Busing has been a concern in Westborough and across the state particularly since the start of this 2021-2022 school year.
Students and their families have experienced delays and inconsistencies.
Athletic directors, coaches and student athletes have felt the impacts as well, with busing companies deprioritizing sports transportation, particularly in the first few weeks of the school year, to focus on primary transportation to and from school.
The state took action in September, with Gov. Charlie Baker mobilizing members of the Massachusetts National Guard to assist in school transportation.
As many as 240 members of the Guard eventually shuttled students in 13 districts to and from school over two months this fall.
That program came to an end on Nov. 8, according to the state, as those 13 districts were finally able to hire enough bus drivers to fill their needs.
Westborough hires new bus driver
Westborough was never part of the National Guard’s school transportation mission. But it’s still seeking new bus drivers, recently onboarding one such driver.
“We do now have a new person that can back up the process,” Director of Finance and Administration David Gordon told the School Committee on Nov. 17.
Gordon said the district and it’s busing contractor, North Reading Transportation (NRT), were working to “re-communicate” their hiring effort.
“We’re progressively looking,” he said of that process.
“The state and NRT are still dealing with the driver shortage, but as a community, we’re putting our best foot forward,” he continued.
District shares new bus tracking app
These conversations play out as NRT and the Westborough schools have recently promoted the launch of a new app allowing families to track their children as they travel on their buses.
Edinberg said the app “works considerably better than our last app,” though she acknowledged that it has had lingering issues for some users.
Westborough follows the nearby Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough in sharing “Where’s my Kid” with families.
Officials in that district spoke about the app on Nov. 8, generally celebrating its effectiveness.
“For a new app, we did anticipate glitches, but overall I think the experience has been pretty good for our families that have chosen to participate,” said Assistant Superintendent of Operations Keith Lavoie.