SEATTLE - Seattle Public Schools announced on Friday that come Monday, 142 bus routes will be suspended as the district anticipates "a significant decrease in available bus drivers following the deadline for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate that takes place on Oct. 18."
This is not the first time the district has had to cancel or delay bus routes due to a staffing shortage.
Seattle Public Schools contracts with First Student, a third-party vendor, for bus service. Like most school bus and transportation services throughout the country, First Student has been experiencing driver shortages, the district said.
More driver shortages are expected on Oct. 18 when Washington state law requires all school district employees – including third-party contractors – to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
It's unknown exactly how many students will be impacted. Approximately 18,000 students are eligible to utilize SPS transportation services and approximately 6,740 students are eligible for the impacted routes, the district reported.
Because of the irregularity of ridership, roughly half of those students who are transportation eligible do not regularly ride the bus, the district explained.
Special education, McKinney Vento (families experiencing homelessness) and foster students will not be impacted
There are 600 total routes district-wide, so only about 24% of the routes will be impacted.
"First, we would like to acknowledge what a difficult and challenging situation this has been. Inconsistent bus service is disruptive at many levels and 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 in an update.
If your child cannot get to school without bus transportation, contact your specific school to discuss accommodations.
"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."
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