About 100 Kelso kids will need to find alternate transportation to school after Tuesday. The district canceled two bus routes due to the nationwide driver shortage and COVID-19.
“We know the challenges this may cause for our families and we sincerely apologize for this unfortunate circumstance,” Superintendent Mary Beth Tack said in a press release Thursday night. “We continue our best efforts to recruit and train new drivers.”
The last day of service for bus routes 16 and 17 will be Tuesday, “after which students riding those routes will need to find transportation to and from school,” the press release said.
Butler Acres Elementary School, Coweeman Middle School and Kelso High School are serviced by the routes. At Butler Acres, that’s half of the bus routes that serve the school, according to the district transportation page. The routes mainly cover Allen Street, Carroll Road and Behshel Heights.
“Every effort has been made to minimize the impact of the bus driver shortage on our families, including doubling up on routes and maximizing capacity on buses,” Tack said. “Several routes were already combined earlier this year, decreasing the total number of routes from 33 to 27. Regrettably, we are now in the position of needing to cancel two routes until circumstances change.”
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To choose the routes, the district looked for ones that were closer to school buildings, where students spent the shortest time on the buses, where the fewest number of students would be affected and tried to avoid schools that have the highest levels of poverty.
While the cancellations are “mainly due to a staffing shortage,” the press release said the effects of COVID-19 are “further affecting the ability to maintain sufficient staffing levels.”
Tack said the district plans to re-evaluate the bus route the week of Nov. 8. The district is recruiting new drivers and said it will pay for training and a CDL certificate. It also increased the hourly wage to $23.05 per hour and is in the process of training some new hires.
During the cancellation, if families on those routes “are truly not able to transport” their children to school, Tack said they can reach out to the Transportation Department to get one of a few spots open on a district van for “students with no other options.”
Families in need can email email@example.com.
“We strive, always, to provide an excellent education for each and every student,” Tack said. “That includes providing needed transportation to and from school.”