PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VA (CBS) - There’s a nationwide shortage of school bus drivers and educators say it’s causing thousands of kids to get to school late and miss valuable education time.
Teachers in one school district are getting behind the wheel to help.
In Prince William County, Virginia, sixth grader Nawah Mustafa’s bus had been late almost every day for weeks.
“Once, I honestly didn’t do well on a test because I wasn’t there for the first lesson of the class one day,” Mustafa said.
The district was having trouble filling dozens of open bus driver positions.
“We were consistently having 100-200 students late to school each day,” Mary Jane Boynton, principal, said.
In 2018, Parkside Principal Boynton helped create a program to train teachers to become bus drivers earning an extra $18.25 an hour.
“Anything we can do to make the lives of our students better is our goal,” Principal Boynton said.
Parkside now has two teachers licensed to drive, including teacher Cyndy Mattia.
Since April, she has been driving and teaching every day.
“It’s a piece of cake once you get the hang of it,” she said.
Prince William County is not the only district struggling to find bus drivers. A quarter of the country’s top 50 largest school bus operators called the bus driver shortage “severe," that’s according to “School Bus Fleet Magazine.”
The National School Transportation Association, said the low pay and high stress level make it hard to retain bus drivers.
“They move on to other employment with the economy being as strong as it is,” Brian Kapf, president of the National School Transportation Association, said.
The school said the student tardiness rate has now been cut in half.
“It’s a lot better, I attend all of my classes, I am not tardy all the time anymore,” Mustafa said. “It’s great, I love it.”
Mattia said that’s the reason she is loving life in the driver’s seat.
In smaller school districts in Michigan and Maine, schools were forced to close for a day earlier in 2019 because there were not enough bus drivers.