Mask Mandate for Schools Remains as PA Addresses School Bus Driver Shortage

Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said the state currently has no plans to lift the mask mandate for students, teachers and staff as the state tries to address the school bus driver shortage.

“We are continuing to review the CDC guidance, also school-age cases of COVID-19 and our levels of community transmission.  67 of 67 counties in the state are at high or substantial transmission.  All are factors we’re considering as we continue to look at a point in time when it’s safe to lift the masking order”, said Beam.

Currently, students 12 and older are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. This week, Pfizer submitted its application to the federal government for approval to administer the vaccine to children between 5 and 11 years old.

“It’s very encouraging that more than half-a-million school-aged kids are already vaccinated.  We encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated and we encourage schools to help make it as convenient as possible. It’s not too early to schedule a vaccine clinic in November in anticipation of federal approval for kids between 5 and 11″, said Beam.

Like the rest of the country, Pennsylvania is also facing a school bus driver shortage.  Pennsylvania currently has 42,000 school bus drivers, the lowest number in 5 years.

To address the problme, school districts can use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to reimburse parents or guardians to safely transport their students to and from in-person school.

PennDOT is reaching out to approximately 375,000 drivers with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in the state about the immediate need for drivers and how to get the correct endorsements for a school bus license.

PennDOT will also temporarily expand its days of operation to offer CDL skills testing at 23 locations throughout the state to include Mondays for four weeks beginning October 18. The additional day will make the process more convenient for potential drivers to complete the process faster. To schedule a CDL skills test, either visit the Driver and Vehicle Services website or call 717-412-5300. Additionally, certain third-party businesses are certified by PennDOT to administer the road test for a market-driven fee.

“PennDOT is committed to ensuring safe transportation for students,” Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Kurt Myers said. “We urge CDL licensees who are seeking work or supplemental employment to obtain a school bus endorsement – taking advantage of the additional hours for CDL testing – to help transport students safely.”

For anyone wishing to become a bus driver, the first step is obtaining initial issuance of a CDL. Anyone 18 years or older may obtain the School Bus and Passenger endorsements on a CDL to obtain a school bus license. For a list of steps and forms to obtain a CDL and the school bus endorsement, please visit the Driver and Vehicle Services website under School Bus Drivers.