MCPS Seeks National Guard Help With Bus Driver Shortage

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The National Guard said it currently has no active assistance mission.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Maryland – The Maryland National Guard has been called upon in Montgomery County to help deal with its school system’s bus driver shortage, according to a county official, who said the county will experience tough few weeks as covid cases continue to rise across the region.

Montgomery County Deputy Director of Administration Dr Earl Stoddard told county council members on Tuesday that the National Guard had been asked to support the Montgomery County Public Schools Transportation Department amid its shortage of drivers.

“We are asking the National Guard to provide bus drivers. I want to let this flow for people. It is not something we would do under normal circumstances,” Stoddard said at Tuesday’s council meeting. . “I understand the National Guard may not be able to help, but they’ve also sent him to counties that may be able to help us.”

RELATED: Montgomery County Public School Ditches Plan to Determine Which Schools Would Go Virtual

Although this request was not granted, according to the National Guard, a spokesperson for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency said the request was split among 23 counties, three cities and state agencies. to see if they could help.

An MCPS spokesperson said his office sent the request to the county government, which submitted the formal request to the National Guard.

A spokesperson for Montgomery County said many jurisdictions face similar challenges and are unsure whether they will receive much support following this path, but exhaust all options nonetheless.

RELATED: 90 Bus Routes Canceled In Montgomery County Public School System After Drivers Called

Stoddard said they are currently doing what they can to determine what resources they can reallocate to support important services during this time, but said it was going to be very difficult three to four weeks during this increase in covid cases. .

“These are not normal times. Expecting us, or Ride On, or the school system to forget about some of these issues, it’s just an unfair expectation of whether its public sector, private sector companies are closing for similar reasons, it’s unfortunate, it’s going to be painful for us and for the residences, but it’s just a reality of the situation we’re in right now, ”Stoddard said.

The first two weeks of school following the vacation were marked by staff shortages, transportation issues and a lack of communication with the school system, according to parents who were forced to keep their children at home at because of this, at a time when covid cases continue to rise and agencies are scrambling to respond.

On the first day back from the Jan.5 break, MCPS confirmed that 90 of its 1,228 bus routes were canceled after drivers called. The higher than expected number of calling drivers led to the assignment of multiple routes, the school system said.

In a letter to parents, the school system said the calls were due to the COVID pandemic and staff issues.

On Tuesday, an MCPS spokesperson said 50 of its routes were affected.

Montgomery County Public Schools was one of many school districts that struggled with staffing throughout 2021 and the system was working on hiring new drivers as of December.

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