Originally posted at 4:28 p.m. Updated with quote from SC chair at 8;35 p.m.
FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham Public Schools District has been approved to receive members of the Massachusetts Army National Guard to deal with the shortage of bus drivers.
SOURCE learned the public school district has been approved for “20 National Guard drivers and vans” to work with NRT Bus to get students to school on time and to get students home at a reasonable time.
On Monday, September 13, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker activated 250 members of the Massachusetts Army National Guard to help public school districts that were facing a shortage of bus drivers.
There is a national shortage of bus drivers.
Four school districts were announced, but Framingham was not one of them. Those districts were Lawrence. Lowell, Chelsea, Lynn. Three of the four are NRT vendors, like Framingham.
Later that afternoon, Sept. 13, Framingham Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay made the request to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner to receive help from the National Guard.
“Within 24 hours,” the Framingham Public School District “request was reviewed and approved,” according to school leaders.
Under the state order, the National Guard drivers can not drive the large yellow buses, but only the smaller mini buses and vans with their &D training & license.
Under the rules, National Guard drivers are only allowed to transport students to and from school.
The Guard drivers can not drive buses for athletics or other extracurricular activities, under the Governor’s order.
National Guard drivers will wear their Army uniforms but will not carry weapons, under the order.
Before the National Guard drivers can begin in Framingham, they need to complete the required 7D training and certification through the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
All National Guard bus drivers must also pass both a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and Sex Offender Registry Information (SORI) check.
It is estimated the National Guard drivers will help the Framingham Public School district for 6 to 8 weeks, until NRT Bus Inc can get the 16 drivers they have in the “pipeline” licensed.
“Throughout history, the Massachusetts National Guard’s community-based volunteers have stepped up to support municipalities,” said Adam Freudberg, Chair of the School Committee, District 4. “We are grateful they and DESE have chosen Framingham to help make the local detrimental impacts of the national bus driver shortage better for students and their families. As a Governor’s liaison to the National Guard in my former job, I understand how different, impactful, and important this new responsibility is. Citizen-soldiers are leaving their day jobs and their families, to step up as they always do and help residents.”
Freudberg told the SOURCE “Together, the Guard, DESE, local officials, our state legislative delegation, and vendor NRT Bus Inc. have teamed up to offer a creative short term solution.”
The School Committee Chair said the “long-term solution is for NRT and the RMV to finalize the new hire certifications and road tests for yellow bus drivers. NRT has been reporting since August that they have approximately 16 drivers in the state’s process who would all be dedicated to Framingham. Having NRT work with the RMV is a top priority, as the result is expected to allow all routes as planned, reducing the need for the Guard’s support to continue. While that continues to be worked, any short term creative solution to offer additional routes and/or individual case management to impacted families is welcomed.”