Thousands of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, school students who take the bus to school were out of luck Monday.
A number of drivers for the Annapolis Bus Company, which contracts with the school district, failed to show up to work amid an ongoing dispute with the bus company.
Bob Mosier, the school system’s spokesman, said the job action was a surprise to school officials.
He explained that the drivers are not school employees, but drivers who work for the Annapolis Bus Company. The only fleet operated by the school system provides transportation for children enrolled in special education programs.
“What we have tried to do is push out as much information to families as we can, and ask them to help arrange rides,” Mosier told WTOP Monday afternoon.
Half of the school system’s 90 bus routes were affected by the job action.
“We don’t have spare drivers,” Mosier explained. “We’re in a driver shortage just like every other school system in our region.”
The Annapolis Bus Company’s parent company is Student Transportation of America. STA has had a contract to supply bus transportation to the county schools since 2017.
On Monday afternoon, an STA spokesperson forwarded a statement from the company that read in part: “Unfortunately, we can confirm that a significant number of students have been affected” by Monday’s job action, but that “we are doing our best to mitigate the impact on the community.”
The statement went on to say that “STA is continuing ongoing communication with both AACPS and the drivers, and we are hopeful that a satisfactory resolution can be reached.”
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman weighed in on the issue, recognizing the regional shortage of school bus drivers.
“These jobs don’t attract enough applicants because they don’t pay enough,” Pittman said.
Pittman also addressed drivers directly: “We need you. We don’t want to lose you. We will fix this.”
It’s unclear whether the situation will be resolved Tuesday.