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Anchorage students will go weeks without bus service due to driver shortages

Anchorage School District Assistant Superintendent Mark Stock outlines the planned fall bus turnaround schedule on Aug. 10, 2022. (ASD YouTube channel screenshot)

Alaska’s largest school district will take turns providing bus transportation this fall as it continues to face a shortage of drivers.

Anchorage School District Special Education Transportation will remain fully staffed. But all other bus lines will be divided into three cohorts. Each cohort will have bus transportation for three consecutive weeks, then go six weeks without.

In an announcement to families Wednesday, Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock said it was the fairest short-term solution in the district. He said they were considering other options, such as full transportation service for schools with higher poverty levels.

“We could have just chosen the schools that we thought would need them and just provided buses there, but the problem with that is that you would be serving around 20 schools. You would have over 40 schools with no transport at all,” he said. “Our intention at this point was to try to spread it around to help everyone out a bit.”

Stock said the district needs about 70 drivers. It currently has enough to serve 7,000 students out of the 20,000 who use the bus. Fourteen new drivers are currently in training.

For now, Stock said, parents should consider carpooling.

Students from several colleges and high schools can also ride the city buses for free. And high schools will suspend parking fees for their students this fall.

Meanwhile, the district is offering new and current drivers up to an additional $2,500 for the first half. The district also offers paid three-week training for drivers to obtain their commercial driver’s license. Stock asked Anchorage residents who already have a commercial driver’s license to consider applying for full-time or part-time jobs.

Chief Operating Officer Rob Holland said the district is prioritizing returning Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson schools to full transportation service. Late last month, the district announced that one of four elementary schools on the base would close due to earthquake safety concerns.

The school district’s bus route and cohort information will be available to parents by 5 p.m. Saturday, according to Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt.

The first day of school is Thursday, August 18.

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