Anchorage students will go weeks without bus service amid driver shortage

A man in a tie stands in front of two men ins uits
“Anchorage School District Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock describes the rotating bus schedule planned for fall on Aug. 10, 2022. (Screenshot from the ASD YouTube channel)

Alaska’s largest school district will provide bus transportation on a rotating basis this fall as it continues to deal with a shortage of drivers.

The Anchorage School District’s special education transportation will remain fully staffed. But all other bus routes will be divided into three cohorts. Each cohort will have bus transportation for three weeks in a row, and then go six weeks without.

In an announcement to families Wednesday, Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock said it’s the most equitable short-term solution the district has. He said they considered other options, such as full transportation service for schools with higher poverty levels.

“We could have just picked the schools that we thought would need it and just provide busing there, but the problem with that is you would be serving about 20 schools. You’d have 40-plus schools that got no transportation at all,” he said. “Our intent at this point was to try to spread it around to help everyone somewhat.”

Stock said the district needs about 70 drivers. It currently has enough to serve 7,000 students out of the 20,000 that use the bus. Fourteen new drivers are currently in training.

For now, Stock said, parents should consider carpooling.

Students at several middle and high schools can also ride city buses for free. And high schools will suspend parking fees for their students this fall.

Meanwhile, the district is offering new and current drivers up to an extra $2,500 for the first semester. The district also provides a paid, three-week training for drivers to earn their commercial driver’s license. Stock asked Anchorage residents who already have a commercial driver’s license to consider applying for full- or part-time jobs.

Chief Operating Officer Rob Holland said the district is prioritizing returning Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson schools to full transportation service. Late last month, the district announced one of the four elementary schools on base would close due to earthquake safety concerns.

The school district bus route and cohort information will be available to parents by Saturday at 5 p.m., according to Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt.

The first day of school is Thursday, Aug. 18.

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