Today, the Seattle Public School District (SPS) announced that some of the bus routes provided by its transportation provider First Student will be suspended indefinitely due to a shortage of bus drivers.
According to a release from the SPS, the suspension of the bus routes will begin on Mon., Oct. 18 and will impact approximately 140 routes – out of a total of 600 district-wide – and an estimated 6,740 students. However, the district is uncertain about the exact number of students that will be impacted “because of the irregularity of ridership – roughly half of those students who are transportation eligible do not regularly ride the bus – it is unknown exactly how many students will be impacted.”
Citing a continuing shortage of drivers, as well as an expected further reduction in drivers because of the Oct. 18 state of Washington vaccination mandate, SPS today provided all transportation-eligible families with a letter detailing the changes.
According to SPS, First Student will continue to recruit new drivers. While it is uncertain when route adjustments can be made, suspended routes will be brought back online as soon as possible as driver staffing improves. Some planned suspended routes could be reinstated as early as next week.
“It’s our hope that the staffing shortages faced by First Student will be resolved as quickly as possible so we can resume – and improve upon – all bus service,” said SPS Assistant Superintendent of Operations Fred Podesta. “In the meantime, we are actively looking for alternative solutions to this challenge, such as the expanded provision of ORCA transit passes for middle school students, and other modes of transportation.”
SPS says that bus service will continue for the following students without interruption:
• Students receiving special education services whose Individualized Education Program (IEP) specifies transportation as a related service;
• McKinney Vento students (those experiencing homelessness) and students in foster care;
• Students with a 504 plan that includes transportation services;
• Schools that serve large numbers or high proportions of historically underserved students;
• Schools that have been relocated to interim sites due to construction.