Monday was the first day back for hybrid learning.By Ross Guidotti

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) – First Student buses sat parked in their Hempfield Township garage Monday, some of them never leaving the depot to pick up their students this morning.

“We contract with First Student and they notified us last night around 8 o’clock they had a number of drivers that reported off,” said Hempfield Area School District Superintendent Dr. Tammy Wolicki.

The Sunday night call impacted about five routes.

“We immediately put a plan into place to remedy the situation,” Wolicki said.

That includes texts informing parents which buses weren’t going to be running on the first day back for hybrid learning. As the district sent out the texts, they turned to another bus company to help for the time being.

“We also contract with DMJ. Currently, they provide transportation to local school districts that are remote-only,” Wolicki said.

The reason for the call-offs isn’t known, but what is known is many bus companies are struggling to keep drivers, let alone back-up operators.

“Staffing shortage has always been an issue, more so now with COVID,” Wolicki said.

The district has been encouraging parents and students to download the First View app for bus services to keep them informed on where the bus is.

“They can actually see the path of their child’s bus in real-time. That way if there’s an issue with a bus being delayed for weather or any reason, they’re able to see that information and it allows us to communicate to parents by bus rather than sending a message to the entire district that only pertains to one or two buses,” Wolicki said.