Seattle Public Schools will not change start times despite growing bus driver staffing concerns

May 18, 2022, 4:34 PM | Updated: May 20, 2022, 9:02 am

(Photo by Craig F. Walker via Getty Images)...

(Photo by Craig F. Walker via Getty Images)

(Photo by Craig F. Walker via Getty Images)

Superintendent Brent Jones has determined Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will continue the two-tier transportation system for the 2022-23 school year.

This followed internal discussions to change the system to three tiers, meaning three different starting times for the school day depending on the grade level.

The proposed change was for the Tier 1 block to start at 7:40 a.m., Tier 2 at 8:30 a.m., and Tier 3 at 9:30 a.m.

With the current two-tier system staying in place, Tier 1 is designated for most elementary schools, while Tier 2 is for K-8, middle, and high schools in the school district.

“Over the last several weeks, we have been listening to the concerns from school, families, and partners around the proposed move to a 3-tier bell schedule,” Jones said in response to families’ concern about the staggered times. “Seattle Public Schools is committed to providing reliable transportation that gets students to school on time and ready to learn. Staff will continue to work with schools, families, and partners over the next several weeks as we refine this plan.”

Parents brought up multiple concerns to the SPS Board, including high school student-athletes needing to leave class for athletic events, older siblings watching after younger siblings after class, traveling in the dark during winter months, and the potential changes to afterschool programs.

The three-tier system proposal coincided with a national shortage in bus drivers, including a deficiency in staff for First Student, the transportation service responsible for bussing SPS students to and from school. There are 50 suspended school bus routes due to a lack of drivers. Bus driver scarcity is expected to continue into the upcoming school year.

“We have no comment on the tiered structures under consideration as we believe SPS and its constituents in the community should decide what’s best,” said Scott Gulbransen, Senior Director of Communications for FirstGroup America, currently representing First Student. “We respect the process the SPS is following to make that choice. No matter how that plays out, our focus is to provide safe and reliable transportation for all those we serve in the SPS.”

First Student, the bus service SPS has used for more than 30 years, is currently competing against a rival company, Zūm Services, to win the bid and renew its contract as the exclusive transportation service for the district.

Rival to First Student exposes Seattle Schools’ fumbled bidding war

“No, that’s not an issue for us,” said Jesse Moore, the spokesperson for Zūm Services, when asked if a two-tier system would be an issue for Zūm Services. “An important caveat though is this process was supposed to be wrapped in December. But [Zūm Services] has set all its stuff up in a hurry before, so it wouldn’t be an issue long term.

“It’s not in First Student’s financial interest to solve this issue, that’s why they are pushing for three tiers,” Moore continued.

Local News

seattle double homicide...

Frank Sumrall

Charges filed against Georgetown double homicide suspect

A 45-year-old man has been charged with murder and assault in a double homicide that took place in Georgetown last January.

15 hours ago

Pierce County tuberculosis...

L.B. Gilbert

Pierce County woman with tuberculosis in custody, treatment optional

A judge ordered law enforcers to arrest a Pierce County woman if she does not start tuberculosis treatment — or prove she is not contagious.

15 hours ago

Seattle teamsters union...

Bill Kaczaraba

Seattle teamsters union takes hit in Supreme Court concrete ruling

In a blow to organized labor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Seattle teamsters union representing concrete truck drivers.

15 hours ago

King County lock box...

L.B. Gilbert

King County offering free lock boxes for National Gun Violence Awareness Day

To mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Public Health -- Seattle and King County announced they will be giving away free gun lock boxes.

15 hours ago

Seattle community court...

L.B. Gilbert

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison ends Community Court

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced the end of the city's participation in the criminal justice alternative called Community Court.

15 hours ago


Bill Kaczaraba

Mountain coaster adds to Leavenworth as tourist destination

The Leavenworth Adventure Park is promoted as "the first alpine coaster in Washington state," and it opens in May in Leavenworth.

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Seattle Public Schools will not change start times despite growing bus driver staffing concerns