NEWINGTON, CT. (WFSB) - Connecticut is preparing for a bus driver shortage.
Hundreds of drivers are threatening to not show up due to the COVID vaccine/testing mandate.
A First Student bus driver, Carolyn Pattrell, said bus drivers should be able to make their own decisions, and they don’t feel they should be mandated to do anything.
On Monday kids could be facing no ride to school, dealing with extended rides or traveling on a combined route bus, because school bus drivers are pushing back at the state’s vaccine mandate.
Pattrell said, “I want to let all the parents know that we are not trying to be interrupting their lives. That’s not our goal. we want to do our job. We love our kids.”
It requires them to be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly covid testing starting next week.
“I got the test under duress because I need my job. I don’t think it should be mandated,” said Pattrell.
She has been driving for 17 years, and said this year has already been stressful, “we can’t even afford one person calling out.”
Many of her coworkers aren’t planning on coming back anytime soon.
She said she is not sure exactly what’s going to happen Monday.
The CT School Transportation Association estimated more than 300 drivers won’t show up, on top of the 800 plus vacancies they already have.
The COO of M&J BUS INC., Jon Hipsher said, “It’s going to be a little bit bumpy Monday- more bumpy than it has been the last few weeks of school.”
He wants the governor to either drop the mandate for drivers or give them more time to figure out a plan, “to put this stress and this pressure on the school bus operators and the drivers with not a lot of time- that’s putting us at a major disadvantage.”
DATTCO said they will not pull non-compliant drivers off routes unless districts request it.
In response, a spokesperson with the governor’s office said, “School bus drivers are employed by districts and not with the state. So, responsibility, is with the local employer when it comes to compliance.”
Parents we spoke with said bus drivers need to follow the rules.
Robin Ross said, “I think everybody needs to get the vaccine.”
Carl Wilson agreed, “we done took polio shots, chicken pox shots, all these disease- so what’s one more shot?”
Hipscher said they’ve informed their drivers about free testing sites across the state, but 15 to 20% of drivers don’t plan on complying.