Anchorage School District has enough bus drivers for every route this year

An Anchorage School District bus. (Tim Rockey/Alaska Public Media)

For the first time in three years, the Anchorage School District will have enough bus drivers to staff all of its routes when school starts. 

At the ASD Transportation Center on Tudor Road Wednesday, Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said drivers play a big role in education.

“We were in a big transportation crisis last year,” Bryantt said. “This year is about celebrating the fact that all of our students will have access to transportation this upcoming year.”

Over the last two years, some drivers chose to drive tour buses during the first part of the school year, leaving the district without enough drivers for each bus route. That left students with no transportation for up to six weeks at a time. Bryantt said the district did a better job recruiting this year.

“We did increase the wages to be competitive, compared to where we were at two years ago, and we also offered all of our bus drivers summer employment,” Bryantt said. “That way, they didn’t have to think about where they’re going to work at outside of ASD.”

The summer employment offered to bus drivers involves situational training and bus maintenance. ASD bus drivers now start making $25 an hour, and can also receive a $1,000 bonus if they make it through the first semester with only two absences.

A man stands in front of a yellow Anchorage School District bus wearing a suit with a red tie.
Anchorage School District Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt stands in front of a school bus at the ASD Transportation Center on Aug. 2, 2023. (Tim Rockey/Alaska Public Media)

Bus routes will be announced on Aug. 10 for the 23,000 Anchorage students who use district transportation to get to school. 

The district needs 227 bus drivers to staff all 13,000 bus stops, and currently has 220 trained and ready to go. Another 15 are in training with the district and eight more are training with Reliant Transportation, which provides transportation to Chugiak and Eagle River. 

Anchorage is not the only district that faced a shortage of drivers. Districts across Alaska and the nation have faced similar difficulties in hiring enough bus drivers.

In Anchorage, the drivers will be using a new routing system this year. Senior Director of Transportation Heather Philp said that drivers were preparing to head out on dry runs to scout their routes for issues, and asked that families bear with drivers as they start the year. 

“I just ask that parents be patient with us. We have a lot of new drivers,” Philp said. “The first couple of weeks is always a little rocky but yeah, patience with this, we’re going to get smooth and we’re going to get there and we’re going to come get your kids in safe.”

The first day of school for Anchorage students is Aug. 17. 

a portrait of a man outside

Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him attrockey@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8487. Read more about Timhere

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