The Anchorage School District shared the specifics of its limited bus service with families on Friday as it grapples with a severe driver shortage, leaving many students without transportation to school for weeks at a time. role.
There are only a few days left until the first day of class next week, families can now see when bus line suspensions will affect their students.
The Anchorage School District has divided students into three groups. Each group will receive bus service in rotation for three weeks, before bus service for that group is suspended for six weeks.
As part of the school district’s plan, the first group (buses Nos. 1 to 38) will be served at the start of the school year from August 18 to September 9. The next bus service is the second group (bus nos. 39-77) with service from 12 to 30 September. The third group (bus no. 78-116) will benefit from the school bus service from October 3 to 20.
This means that in some cases pupils might not be able to take a bus to school for another month and a half.
Such is the case for Margaret Hannah and her children, who live in the Chugiak/Eagle River area and will not have school bus service until early October. Hannah, an elementary school art teacher, has to be at work before her children can be dropped off and works later than their pick-up times.
“Honestly, I’m freaking out,” Hannah said after checking the bus schedule on Friday.
She has a sixth-grader, a fifth-grader, and a sophomore at ASD, and they live too far from the school to walk. Hannah and her boyfriend – who both work full time – have to take their children to five different schools every day.
Hannah planned to keep her children at home for the first two days of school on Thursday and Friday next week, in the hope that she could find something by the following Monday.
“My mind is spinning,” Hannah said. “It pushes me to consider putting my children in their virtual school and educating them myself. I don’t know what I would do financially, but when it comes to their education, at least I know they would get what they need.
Some school bus routes have been condensed and, depending on the the district’s FAQ page, bus service groups are not restricted by the school. This means that a particular school may have students in more than one group who will receive bus service at different times.
The district has 113 drivers available for the 113 special education routes, but only 45 drivers are available to cover the 116 routes among general education students, according to district spokeswoman Lisa Miller.
[Mat-Su Borough School District will suspend bus routes on a rolling basis due to driver shortage]
Special education students will still receive ongoing service.
In an email to families, Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt wrote that more candidates had emerged for bus driver positions with the school districtand there are more drivers in training.
“Know that we are leaving no stone unturned to resolve this issue,” Bryantt wrote. “I understand that the bus route rotation service is a burden on families. Our goal is to suspend bus line rotations as soon as we can. It is a temporary solution.
District officials, in announcing the suspensions of rotating bus routes earlier this week, said they only had enough drivers to provide bus service to 7,000 of the district’s 20,000 eligible students. The district is short of about 70 bus drivers and obtaining a commercial driver’s license requires three weeks of training.
Officials considered alternatives to bus route suspensions, such as double drop-offs and limiting service to certain schools, but that created potential for late arrivals and left too many people without bus service, the district said. on his website.
ASD is exploring changing drop-off and pick-up times to better accommodate parents, Miller said.
The school district said it is also working to provide gas cards, which would be distributed by schools, to families who need extra support. Parking fees for high school students will be waived and authorities are working to make city bus passes available to middle and high school students, according to the district.
ASD said families can view their child’s bus information for the start of the school year at Q Parent Connect.
The shortage of bus drivers is also affecting operations at the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, which is suspending bus routes on an ongoing basis starting Tuesday.
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