(The Center Square) – Some students of Seattle Public Schools will need to find a different way to get to school, which starts on Sept. 7.
In a letter written by Fred Podesta, the assistant superintendent of operations at SPS, families were notified that some bus routes will not be available.
“The transportation challenges our district experienced in the 2021-22 school year remain. That means this fall, some SPS bus routes will not be in effect for the start of school,” Podesta said in the letter posted on Monday.
SPS warned of potential suspended bus routes back in May due to a national bus driver shortage. Podesta also said that operating on a two-tier bell schedule increases the number of needed bus routes.
The district proposed a switch to a three-tier bell schedule to stagger school start times between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. This would have allowed fewer bus drivers to drive more routes. However, the school board ditched the proposal after hearing a number of concerns from parents.
Families eligible for transportation services will have their routes mailed to their home addresses by Aug. 31, according to Podesta.
Efforts were made to bring back the suspended routes. The biggest move SPS made was contracting with two transportation vendors for the upcoming school year: First Student and Zum. However, the district still doesn’t have enough drivers to staff all of the bus routes between the two companies.
“Both companies have robust recruiting efforts, and we are optimistic that those efforts will help contribute to a long-term solution,” Podesta said.
Until the two companies are able to be fully-staffed and the suspended routes are added back, SPS recommends parents find a different way to take their children to school. One alternative includes free metro bus services for riders 18 and younger that King County passed. The service starts on Sept. 1.
“We know this solution is far from perfect and we are doing everything we can to minimize disruption,” Podesta said. “We are committed to making sure that all students who need it have safe and dependable transportation to and from school.”
SPS’s upcoming school year budget includes $9.2 million for the management and oversight of districtwide operations. That includes routing student buses, coordinating building maintenance projects and scheduling school cleaning.