By Staff

LAWRENCE (CBS) – Several Massachusetts National Guard members started their new mission Thursday, driving students to school to help with the severe shortage of bus drivers.

According to John McCarthy, the CEO of North Reading Transportation, everything went smoothly as the Guard picked up students in Lawrence, Lynn and Chelsea. They’ll start in Lowell on Monday.

Up to 250 members of the Massachusetts National Guard were activated Monday and trained this week to drive school transport vans, known as 7D vehicles.

They went through fingerprinting, classroom exams and a road test in order to earn their 7D certifications.

Drivers were monitored by GPS Thursday, McCarthy said, as they picked up special needs students from pre-K to high school at their homes. The routes completed by drivers on Thursday were still part of training, which should be fully completed by next week.

School districts that want to get in on the program must contact the state for assistance. Staff