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School district combines additional bus routes

The 2022-2023 school year starts Tuesday for students.
Jenny Neyman
/
Redoubt Reporter
Bus companies around the country have reported similar problems with bus driver shortages this year.

Staffing shortages continue to impact school bus routes in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District — though administrators say they’re making do with the consolidated routes, for now.

The new routes were first announced before classes started last month, amid bus driver shortages and increased business costs for the district. Bus companies around the country have reported similar problems this fall.

The district contracts with bus company First Student, formerly Apple Bus. That company brought in over a dozen drivers from out of state to work routes between the start of classes last month and Labor Day.

Now that school has started back up in the Lower 48 and those drivers are gone, the district is readjusting.

Just last week, the Kenai district consolidated an additional batch of routes in Soldotna and Nikiski, bringing the total number of routes down to 43. While the first batch of changes brought some pick-ups from residential streets to more centralized locations, closer to highways, this batch combines existing routes, changing pick-up times for students.

Kevin Lyon is the district’s director of planning and operations, which includes transportation. He said, at the moment, the district's 40 drivers are enough to work the routes.

"The big question we have right now is how many people are going to call in sick," he said.

Lyon said the latest consolidations were to create a buffer in case some staff couldn’t come into work.

"To make sure that we can keep all the routes running," he said.

He said there are several drivers in training now that will soon be ready to drive. He asked parents to be patient as the district continues to readjust its routes and respond to shortages.

Still, he said the district is doing better than some others. The Anchorage School District has had to make big changes amid a severe driver shortage, including a rotating bus route schedule.

"I would like to get some of [the routes] unconsolidated before snow flies," he said. "But so far, we’re doing OK and getting all the students picked up and delivered to schools."

He said anyone who’s interested in being a driver can contact bus company First Student.

For a list of route changes, click here.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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