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Anchorage School District hopes to end bus route suspensions in October

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 5:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District is still short of bus drivers, but some relief may be in sight.

Transportation Director Heather Philip said the district hopes to hire enough drivers so that it can end its temporary policy of rotating route suspensions by sometime in October.

Philip said the district anticipates some drivers currently working for Premier Alaska Tours will switch over when their season ends in October. Also, both the district and its partner company, Reliant Transportation, have drivers in training.

“Reliant has seven drivers in class that, hopefully, should be done by mid-October,” Philip said. “We have three in class that should be done here in the next couple of weeks. We have a couple of drivers returning from Premier. At that point we are hoping to have enough drivers to cover, so we don’t have to do suspended routes at that time.”

A handful of new drivers will help, but the district is still looking for more. Philip said they were down at least 50 drivers at the start of the school year. She said few people are applying for positions, possibly because they are concerned about COVID-19 or, once trained by the district, are going to other jobs that pay more, like the city’s People Mover bus system.

Philip said the lack of staff is putting a lot of pressure on the existing drivers.

“It’s stressful for drivers because they’re feeling rushed, and they’re feeling like they have to complete things in a more timely manner, with a lot more to do, (and) a lot less time to do it in,” she said.

Philip has also taken calls from parents who are frustrated about providing their own transportation for students. Even though the route suspensions last just three weeks for a particular neighborhood, Philip said she understands the inconvenience.

“Everybody’s having a rough time of it … parents, schools, drivers — it’s just a bad situation all around,” she said.

Philip said the first round of suspensions will end and transition to the next group of routes on Monday, Sept. 20. People included in the next round of route suspensions have already been informed. Upcoming route suspensions can also be found on the district website.

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