Bus driver shortage to impact Kent School District students

Students in the Kent School District who ride a bus could see their routes affected due to a severe bus driver shortage.

The district announced Friday, Nov. 5 the driver shortage and potential impact to routes. The district transports about 10,000 students each day.

“On any given day, any given bus route, students could experience a different bus number, earlier or later pick-up or drop-off times, and unfortunately, the potential of no bus transportation at all,” according to the district.

The potential impacts:

Different buses: Your child may ride one bus in the morning to school and a different one in the afternoon on the way home. This means a different bus number and a different bus driver.

Bus times: Pick-up and drop-off times could vary and may not align precisely with school start and dismissal times. Because of the driver shortage, the district may need to double-up on bus runs, when this happens your child could be picked up earlier or later than when school begins. Alternatively, your student may need to wait at school for a bus to pick them up, when this happens students will be supervised while they wait. As soon as the district knows if your child’s route is affected, it will send a School Messenger SMS text and email to families with as much advance notice as possible.

No transportation: As a last resort, when no bus drivers are available, it’s possible the district may not be able to provide bus transportation for some routes on any given day. The district encourages families to have a backup plan with an alternative way to get their child to school. If your child is unable to get to school due to lack of transportation, it will be an excused absence. The district will notify affected families as soon as it possibly can. The district will continue to provide transportation for special education students who have special transportation in their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).

“Unfortunately, KSD is not the only district or organization experiencing a driver shortage,” according to the district. “We have been diligently recruiting, hiring, and training a sufficient team of bus drivers as quickly as possible. Still, the COVID-19 pandemic has gravely impacted transportation nationwide and is now affecting our transportation team.”

For more information or transportation-related questions, visit the Kent School District website or call the Transportation office at 253-373-7442.

Driver numbers

Pre-pandemic the district needed 128 drivers available per day to cover all of the routes and had 145 drivers, according to a Nov. 5 email from district spokesperson Melissa Laramie.

This year the district consolidated bus routes to the point where it needs 117 drivers available per day.

“Currently we have 128 drivers on the roster but 11 drivers are on long-term medical/personal leave,” Laramie said. “That leaves us with 117 drivers. Then we average about 5 to 10 daily driver absences. The ‘bench’ to fill-in is depleted. There are dispatchers, routers, trainers and supervisors driving routes daily to help cover the routes.”

Laramie said the district would like to have 15 more drivers immediately, but that the target is constantly moving.

The district lost three drivers who specifically stated the vaccine mandate was the reason for their resignation, Laramie said.

“There has not been a surge of resignations but a slow build up of resignations paired with a low replacement rate,” Laramie said.

Bus drivers wanted

The Kent School District is offering a $1,000 incentive in an effort to hire more drivers.

Candidates who complete training and begin driving for the district will receive a $1,000 completion incentive. The pay for the part-time job is between $25.41 and $30.o3 per hour, according to the district website. Hours are generally 5:45 to 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 5 p.m weekdays.

Drivers must be fully vaccinated or provide a medical or religious exemption.

The district provides training to qualified applicants. The driver training program takes approximately four weeks and combines classroom learning with behind-the-wheel bus driving experience.

Apply online at the district website or call 253-373-7442.

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Article Source: Kent Reporter