Bus driver shortage forces district to suspend service to charter school students

STA has been advertising to fill bus driver slots for several months. Image/STA

⇒RELATED STORY: School board approves dual-provider bus plan for ’23-’24 school year

MANCHESTER, NH – On Friday the Manchester School District notified families of students enrolled in public charter schools that bus service will be suspended, starting Sept. 10, due to a lack of drivers.

School Superintendent Jennifer Chmiel Gillis released a statement Sunday detailing the situation [see below.]

The district did not say how many students the bus suspension would affect.

Cassie Hayes, Dean of Founders Academy on Sunday said the suspension of bus service will affect about 165 of their students.
This affects about 40% of our student population. Not having a busing option is a huge challenge for many of our families. But as a tight-knit community, Founders families have come together to support each other,” Hayes said. “As soon as the notice went out families immediately started connecting to create carpools and brainstorm solutions. The Founders Academy administration is also committed to supporting our families.”
In order to make sure all families will have options, Founders Academy has extended its hours for the coming week and will allow parents to drop off as early as 6:30 a.m. and pick up as late as 5:30 p.m., free of charge, Hayes said.

Below: A message released Sept. 10 by Superintendent Gillis:

I’m writing to address transportation issues we have been experiencing in Manchester School District since the start of the school year. These workforce-related issues include significant delays, crowded buses, and cancelation of routes by a busing provider.

It is important to note that this year, our school bus routes are served by two companies: Student Transportation of America (STA) and Manchester Transit Authority (MTA). STA is a new provider for the District and covers roughly half of our bus routes, while (MTA) covers the remaining routes. Unfortunately, STA does not currently have enough drivers to cover these routes.

Late Friday afternoon, STA informed the Manchester School District that it cannot provide transportation for charter schools at this time due to a workforce shortage. In addition to our own schools, the District must provide transportation for city students who attend charter schools. We notified these charter schools early Friday evening that STA had canceled all of their bus routes at this time, until the company can hire more drivers.

We are deeply sorry for the impact this is having on students, families and the schools. Manchester School District has been working nonstop with any available transportation providers to find coverage for these charter school routes. We greatly appreciate our additional transportation providers for their dedication as they work with us to find solutions. As soon as we are able, we will provide updates directly to the affected charter schools.

All other routes for District schools will continue to operate; however the schools served by STA will continue to experience delays until the company can hire more drivers. These schools include:

  • Memorial
  • West
  • Parkside
  • Southside
  • Parker-Varney
  • Jewett
  • Beech Street
  • Northwest
  • McDonough
  • Bakersville
  • Highland

Please remember that the best long-term solution is for MTA and STA to hire more bus drivers. We strongly encourage anyone who is interested in driving a bus to apply today with MTA at https://mtabus.org/manchester-transit-careers/ or STA at https://stacareers.com/.