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Saratoga Springs schools: Severe bus driver shortage could make kids late

Mark Mulholland
Updated: February 13, 2020 06:46 PM
Created: February 13, 2020 05:50 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Gerry Freedman loves driving a bus for the Saratoga Springs City School District.

"I came from a corporate background where I was getting burned out and I wanted something completely different."

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He started in September 2018 and has seen the district struggle to come up with people to drive the school's 103 buses.

Lately, because of sick calls, part-time drivers who winter in the south, and a shortage of drivers, everyone has been filling in - including dispatchers and mechanics.

"It is absolutely crazy," said Cheryl Dalton, the district's director of transportation. "We'll start off in the morning thinking that we've got everything covered, and then we get a phone call and then another phone call."

Freedman adds, "The folks in dispatch pull a rabbit out of the hat every day."

It got so bad Thursday, the school notified parents that despite combining routes and bus stops, there's a chance kids would be late for school.

However, Saratoga Springs' situation is the rule, not the exception.

Schools throughout the Capital Region can't find and retain enough drivers.

Here they start at just under $20 an hour, and they get health and dental insurance if they work 25 hours a week, and the superintendent says the rewards extend beyond the compensation package.

"It's a really rewarding opportunity to see kids grow up. A lot of our drivers see them from kindergarten right through graduation, get to know their families," said Michael Patton, Ed.D., superintendent of schools.

Gerry Freedman likes the flexibility of the schedule, the benefits, and the kids.

"It almost makes it worth getting up at 4:30 in the morning."


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