Seattle Public Schools will suspend 142 bus routes in anticipation of driver shortage

Oct 15, 2021, 2:04 PM | Updated: Oct 16, 2021, 7:52 am
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(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Seattle Public Schools says it has alerted parents that it’s suspending on Monday school bus service on 142 routes — or 24% — due to staffing challenges.

In the memo, SPS says it’s anticipating a “significant decrease” in the number of bus drivers available following the state’s Oct. 18 COVID vaccine mandate. It also acknowledges that this disruption is major challenge for students and their families. It’s expected to impact about 6,700 of the 18,000 students eligible for bus service.

“We’re doing our best to make sure that students can get to and from school safely and as close to on time as possible,” the district said.

SPS does not run its own bus service, but uses a third-party vendor — First Student — which has experienced bus driver shortages across the country. The state vaccine mandate applies to all school district employees, including third party contractors.

The district says there are about 600 routes across Seattle, in total.

Those who will continue to receive bus service, according to the district:

  • Students receiving special education services whose IEPs specify transportation as a related service.
  • McKinney Vento (families experiencing homelessness) and foster students.
  • Students with a 504 plan that includes transportation services.
  • Schools that serve large numbers or high proportions of historically underserved students.
  • Schools at interim sites.

The district says it’s required by law to provide transportation to “students receiving special education services whose IEPs specify transportation as a service, and those whose 504 plans provide for transportation.” Additionally, it prioritizes “schools in keeping with our commitment to equity for those students who are furthest from educational justice.”

Seattle Public Schools says First Student is working to hire more bus drivers as quickly as possible. It’s also working on other ways to provide transportation to students.

If a student cannot get to school without bus service, families are encouraged to call schools for assistance.

Meanwhile, King County Metro has also had to cancel trips. On Friday morning, about 80 trips (of 11,400 total) were canceled. On Thursday, 26 trips were canceled. The agency said most passengers were able to board the next trip available.

Metro said that the cancelations are due to a lack of workforce.

“We are hiring and training up to 54 part-time operators, with two classes underway and three classes graduating in November,” Metro wrote.

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Seattle Public Schools will suspend 142 bus routes in anticipation of driver shortage