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Shortage has teachers stepping in to help drive school buses

(WCAX)
Published: May. 13, 2019 at 4:32 PM EDT
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In Prince William County, Virginia, sixth-grader Nawah Mustafa's bus had been late almost every day for weeks.

"Once, I honestly didn't do well on a test because I wasn't there for the first lesson of the class one day," Mustafa said.

The district was having trouble filling dozens of open bus driver positions.

"We were consistently having 100-200 students late to school each day," said Mary Jane Boynton, the principal.

So last year, Boynton helped create a program to train teachers to become bus drivers, earning an extra $18.25 an hour.

"Anything we can do to make the lives of our students better is our goal," Boyton said.

Parkside now has two teachers licensed to drive, including teacher Cyndy Mattia.

Reporter: When you first get on this bus with all these kids, what goes through your mind?

Cyndy Mattia: Good lord, don't let me hit anything. (Laughs)

Since April, she has been driving and teaching every day.

"It's a piece of cake once you get the hang of it," Mattia said.

Prince William County is not the only district struggling to find bus drivers. A quarter of the country's top 50 largest school bus operators called the bus driver shortage "severe," that's according to School Bus Fleet Magazine. The National School Transportation Association says the low pay and the high stress level make it hard to retain bus drivers.

"They move on to other employment with the economy being as strong as it is," said Brian Krapf of the National School Transportation Association.

The school says the student tardiness rate has now been cut in half.

"It's a lot better, I attend all of my classes, I am not tardy all the time anymore. It's great, I love it," Mustafa said.

Mattia says that's the reason she is loving life in the driver's seat.

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