BOSTON (CBS) — The Massachusetts National Guard has been activated to help with the state’s shortage of school bus drivers. Up to 250 members will be available to cities and towns, the state announced Monday.
They will be able to drive school transport vans, known as 7D vehicles.
“Once it became pretty clear that there were going to be some communities shorthanded — it wasn’t going to be a vehicle issue, it was going to be people with CDLs — we started talking to the Guard,” Governor Charlie Baker said.
According to the governor, there were already members with commercial driver’s licenses for professional or Guard-related reasons.
“There are a bunch of communities who have said they’re interested in this and we’re glad to be able to help because it’s important,” Baker said.
Starting Tuesday, 90 members will prepare to get to work in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn.
“It’s like we’ve worked so hard to get our kids finally to a place where they can come to school, now we’ve got to get them to school and on time. We want our kids in school so they can learn,” said Chelsea School Superintendent Almi Abeyta.
All drivers will need to complete training.
Baker said the cost will be reimbursed by the federal government since it is a COVID-related issue.
“We are grateful and thankful that somebody was definitely thinking out of the box,” Abeyta said. “When I got the call, I was like ‘oh, that’s an interesting solution, yes, OK!’”
The state said the assignment won’t interfere with the Guard’s ability to respond to emergencies.