A highlight from The National Guard Driving School Buses: How Did It Get This Bad?
As of today members of the massachusetts national guard are driving school buses lawrence and lynn. This after governor. Charlie baker activated the guard monday to help with shortages and chelsea lawrence lowell and linz since then worcester woburn quincy and revere also signed up about a hundred twenty guard members of trained and receive their licenses mostly to drive these special seventy school bus transport while they're really vans vehicles that take students with a variety of special needs to school. So how did we get here. We welcome superintendent. I'll meet a beta of chelsea public schools and drew damian director of transportation and facility rental palmer public schools. He's also the president of the massachusetts association of pupil transportation. Superintendent obata welcome back. Thank you with always nice to be here good to have you andrew. Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. good afternoon. So superintendent debate. I'm going to start with you. Take us to the moment when you heard that the governor was going to bring up the national guard to drive school buses. What did you think in. How quickly did you sign on. Well i received a call actually just always last week So everything has been moving very fast. And so when i received a call. Hey would you. Would you be interested in this. And i had no idea what my other colleagues superintendent call leads were doing but when i heard it i'm an i'm receiving phone calls over here. At central office are buses are running late parents or upset because Whatever reason and i was like absolutely signed me up so I was excited just to get all any any help. That i could get so Where's this very grateful for The commissioner and our governor for for thinking out of the box and being creative and finding a solution to help us so drew two questions. I want to ask you at once. I think it lasts because of what the superintendent just said thinking outside of the box. I admit when i first heard it i thought wow that cannot be typical to have national guards. People driving school buses. Am i wrong or is this pretty out of the box. This is pretty outside box. actually we You know around the state. When this i was an inst- A lot of eyebrows did go up in the air But one of the things that that i like to Say as i represent the districts. in ma pt is. We need to think outside the box. We need to think with the glass. Half full The national guard has a reputation for working with civilians very successfully across a broad range areas and and Professional jobs and so we thought to ourselves. What a great idea to to have something like this Come along and presents an opportunity To make it work. And i'd also like to say thank you to the governor and the commissioner but also to the registry of motor vehicles who stepped up quite quickly To make it possible to get these folks the basic training That they would need to get behind the wheel and and work with these children Than as you mentioned earlier our our our most Critical in need for whatever reason whether they be a special education student on the educational side or whether They are homeless or unable to access schools or some other reason and fall into a catchment where we transport these students sometimes great distances back and forth between the schools and the current placements superintendent obata and to ask you the same question in a minute from your perspective. How did we get here. Yeah that's a really good question. And i do believe a lot of it has to do with cove ed There's certainly i'm i'm. I'm assuming there's certainly some fear out there You're an on a bus. It's small enclosed. it can be. I know the windows have to be open. But if if you're immuno-compromised or you have a family member that might be and maybe you're closer to retirement a you might just say you know what it's it's it's time for me to retire. Maybe i don't wanna i don't. I'm not for this right now. And so i do think that We have to think about that and so Kobe has brought a lot of challenges and many areas not just transportation and so this is just one little sliver that were we're addressing but there are other. There were other complications. As you know with getting school started. And there's just so much that's been impacted as a result of cove it. I appreciate that drew. My understanding is. Kobe is a lot but it's not the only thing some of this was coming. Beforehand is well absolutely so so we have had a school bus driver shortages from the atlantic to the pacific intimately and ongoing at different rates for a long time As the superintendent mentioned that it's very important to remember I think cova was the last ingredient in what was brewing to be a perfect storm for a long time And she's very Astute in mentioning that you know.