TOMS RIVER – The shortage of bus drivers in the Toms River area, which has already resulted in new tee times at five schools, is now having an impact on student-athletes in the district.
Acting Superintendent Stephen Genco has said some games are being postponed to weekends. The coaches have also enlisted the help of parents in driving students to the games, if available.
âWe are having difficulty with athletic races and activity races,â Genco said at Wednesday’s school board meeting. “We had to mix up a number of events.” So far, the rescheduled events have mainly been at the junior college and first year levels.
Genco said he understands the importance of high school sports and extracurricular activities, and that the district will do its best to keep moving events so nothing gets canceled.
“We will continue to try to mix and organize the events,” he said. The district enlisted the help of private companies for additional bus trips, but Genco said those vendors had the same difficulty finding bus drivers and refused to bid for the work.
A nationwide shortage of school bus drivers has forced districts in New Jersey – and the United States – to scramble to find transportation for children. The shortage is so acute that in Massachusetts, up to 250 members of the National Guard have been activated and will be able to drive transport vans to towns and villages in desperate need of drivers.
Toms River has the largest fleet of buses owned by the state’s board of directors and carries approximately 13,000 children per day. School bus drivers must acquire a commercial driver’s license with a school bus endorsement, which requires extensive training. A road test and written test, as well as a criminal background check, are all required before a bus driver is allowed to carry children.
Toms River Regional has offered bonuses of up to $ 3,000 to employees hired between April 1 and September 30 this year who must undergo training provided by the district to become a driver.
The premium is paid in full after a driver has worked for the district for a year, for at least 25 hours per week.
The driver shortage led the district to change the start times at five schools – Toms River Intermediate North and South, and Joseph A. Citta, Beachwood and Pine Beach Elementary Schools – after more bus drivers retired during the summer.
The start times of these schools have been shifted so that the transportation schedule can be more efficient.
Genco said neighboring districts, including Jackson and The Brick, are also having difficulty getting student athletes to their games.
Toms River resident Rachel Remelgado said the district has not done a good job communicating with parents about the bus situation.
âMy concern is that the families have been blinded, the children have been blinded,â Remelgado said. She often criticized the district for not communicating properly with parents.
Genco said the district is doing its best not to cancel events and move them to weekends instead.
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âIf we can get the students to the game, we can definitely get them back after the games,â he said. Genco said the district had hoped to provide buses for events and sports by hiring private contractors, “but that did not happen.”
He noted that regional administrators in Toms River are talking about the shortage of bus drivers since July.
âAll of a sudden it slapped us in the face when sports started happening,â he told Remelgado.
Jennifer Howe, a board member, whose daughter is a cross country athlete, said coaches had contacted parents about the issue and tried to make sure all athletes had races for them. their matches.
âThe coaches do a great jobâ¦ They try very hard,â Howe said. “I think we have to give them a big round of applause when you see them.”
Jean Mikle has covered Toms River and several other towns in Ocean County, and has written on local government and politics on the Jersey Shore for almost 37 years. She is also passionate about the legendary Shore music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle, [email protected]