Alaska National Guard prohibited by statute to assist with ASD bus driver shortage

The Alaska National Guard received a request from the State of Alaska to assist the Anchorage School District in their need for bus drivers.
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 1:13 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2022 at 5:43 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska National Guard received a request from the State of Alaska to assist the Anchorage School District in their need for bus drivers.

A National Guard spokesperson said they have been in contact with the Alaska Emergency Operations Center, adding that this partnership is still in the works and they do not have a concrete answer yet if the partnership will be possible.

However, late Friday afternoon, Alaska National Guard and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Director of Communications Alan Brown shared an update on the request.

“As shared earlier this week, there have been discussions about the possibility of using Alaska National Guard members to assist with the ASD bus driver shortage,” Brown wrote in an email. “While the situation is understandably a major challenge, after consulting the Alaska Department of Law regarding the current bus driver shortage, Alaska Statute (26.05.070) does not permit the activation of National Guard members for this purpose.”

The school district has been forced to suspend routes in the early days of the school year, which began for students on Thursday.

“The Anchorage School District (ASD) has been in robust discussions with our partners at the National Guard regarding the bus driver shortage. While a viable means of support was not possible, we are very appreciative of Governor Dunleavy and our partners at the National Guard for their collaboration to help find solutions,” Anchorage School District Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt wrote in an email Friday evening. “This is a great example of our strong partnership and our strong community that has joined together during this difficult situation to prioritize the education of our students. We are moving forward with exploring all other options that could help mitigate the burden of the bus driver shortage on our families. We continue to make progress with our bus driver hiring process. Please check our transportation hot topics page for daily updates on hiring progress. If you are interested in becoming a bus driver or bus driver attendant, please click here.”

“We met with a team from the Alaska National Guard, met with the superintendent and some of his staff to learn more about what their needs were, and sort of brainstorm what would be possible,” Brown said in an interview earlier Friday, prior to sharing the update regarding the statute.

However, Bryantt said Thursday that he had not been in touch with military personnel about the potential partnership.

“I am not aware of that,” Bryantt said in an interview Thursday. “I was at the base all day this morning and I had the opportunity to speak with families about how pleased they are to be back in school.”

Brown said that the discussion earlier this week consisted of understanding what the district’s needs were.

“They shared their issues, their challenges, what their needs were and then from there, we took that information and that’s where we’re at,” Brown said. “We are conducting an analysis at our level to determine what we could do to assist.”

According to ASD, the district currently has 52 bus drivers working throughout the district. The district is in need of 70 bus drivers to fill their schedule, and with 50 currently in the hiring or training process, the superintendent stated that he plans to have only 20 vacant positions by the end of September.

This story has been updated with additional information.