Anchorage School District to prioritize low-income students, longest routes as new drivers start working

A sign outside the Anchorage School District’s bus depot advertises open bus driver positions. Without enough drivers, the district may have to suspend some bus routes. (Katie Anastas/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage School District plans to staff bus routes based on need as new drivers begin working.

At a school board meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said the district will prioritize routes that serve low-income students and students who live furthest away from their schools. He said each new route will serve multiple schools.

“There will be a flurry of new schools that come online as we add routes,” Bryantt said. “But our intent is all new bus drivers that come in, we’re prioritizing those resources toward the families and communities and students with highest levels of need and the communities for which we have safety concerns about the route.”

One of those communities will likely be Dimond Estates, a mobile home park on the east side of Anchorage. Parents and teachers told the board that some of the 330 students who live there attend schools 8 miles away. 

Tara Devlin teaches English Language Learners at South High School and Goldenview Middle School. She told the board that bus route suspensions will disproportionately impact her students that come from Dimond Estates.

“The school closures and online learning showed us a distinct disadvantage for the students in the neighborhood compared to their Southside and Girdwood peers because of the Internet, limited English, food security and the heavy responsibility on older students to take care of their siblings,” Devlin said.

Bryantt said 16 newly-hired drivers are currently training for their commercial drivers license, and seven others will start training next week. The district is currently interviewing 16 more applicants, and they expect another 17 drivers to start on Sept. 19.

Bryantt said the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson’s office have offered support from the city. He also said district leaders have spoken with Governor Dunleavy but did not provide further information.

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