Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Seattle Schools Transportation Update

Via SPS Communications (bold mine):

This is an update on transportation services contracted with First Student. Anytime there is a late bus, students, families and schools are impacted. We apologize for this disruption. Getting students safely to and from school on time is a top priority. 

In February, First Student and their drivers came to an agreement after an 8-day strike. This agreement was supposed to ensure sufficient bus drivers. Although First Student had sufficient drivers at the end of last school year, many drivers did not return this school year, and bus routes have been inconsistent since the start of school. 

Seattle Public Schools is a microcosm of our city. Finding great employees in a city with low unemployment and competitive wages has been tough for First Student. First Student has found filling the 411 positions they require to serve SPS challenging, and they have been 15 to 35 positions short since the start of school. When this happens, First Student “doubles up” on routes to make sure every route is run daily, but this means that some routes are significantly delayed. 

What are we doing to get your student to and from school on time?
  • First Student has been actively recruiting and training staff, however, they continue to have a high turnover rate. To reduce this, First Student has just agreed to a significant salary increase for beginning drivers. First Student said they have 46 drivers in training, and we should anticipate that all positions should be filled by early October.
  • Meanwhile, we continue to prioritize yellow bus service to Title 1 schools and for special education students.
  • The district has been continuously working with First Student to develop plans and supports to reduce the impact on families.
    • We have subcontracted with a Special Education transportation contractor
    • Provided more ORCA cards to students
    • Re-routed existing routes to reduce the total number of drivers needed
    • Convened a Transportation Force that includes transportation and school professionals, parents and community members
    • We also have provided additional funding for schools when buses are late and additional supervision is needed
We will continue to keep you updated as more information is available. Please continue to check the transportation webpage for updates. We also are working to provide more timely communications to families and schools. 

Because this has not been resolved, we are asking families to make alternative plans in case your student’s bus is late. We realize this is difficult for some families and impacts their family schedule. We are continuing to work with First Student to resolve their service and staffing issue as soon as possible. Again, we are sorry for the inconvenience to families and the disruption to our students’ academic environment and learning.


Anonymous said...

This letter leaves out quite a lot of important information, such as what SPS plans to do to improve coordination and communication. When the bus 467 to the south end wound up in Queen Ann, for example, the Transportation Dept was the last to know about it and did not know for nearly two hours while students were being bussed around town far from their homes during rush hour. The issue is not just staffing, it's competence or lack thereof.


Anonymous said...

This letter is a start, but I didn't receive it (who did? when? via email?). We are new to busing this year, but I am already appalled at the stories I have heard at the bus stop and read about online. Distracted drivers, angry drivers, lost drivers, drivers going so fast that students are physically hurt when the bus goes over speed bumps. And of course, there's the daily late -bus-roulette we are all unhappily playing.

I am disheartened at how so many parents I have spoken with have already given up on the situation. They tell me that there is no point in communicating their concerns with the district because nobody cares and Transportation will just hang up on them. They create ad-hoc carpools by offering rides to other kids who are stranded when the bus is late or just not coming - kind, but problematic from a legal and safety perspective. Even worse are the kids who don't have anyone to drive them, who must wait at a bus stop alone in a dangerous area, often in the dark, wondering if the bus is going to come late or at all.

If the district is truly committed to equity, it seems to me that getting all kids to school on time is a pretty good place to start. Inclusive curriculum and "courageous" conversations about race and class are also important. But for Pete's sake, can we please keep our eye on the basics? Let's start with getting kids to school on time, and safely. I understand the driver shortage yadda yadda but this has to be a priority. If the current system isn't working, the district needs to look at other solutions. I can drive my child to school if his bus is two hours late (as it was yesterday). MANY PARENTS AND GUARDIANS CANNOT. This is not equitable, and this is not right.


Just sayin said...

How much control DOES the district have on this issue? two tiered bell times, driver shortage... long travel distances for students receiving special services due to program availability/services... = DISASTER


Anonymous said...

jUST Sayin

Still, SPS signed a contract with a vendor who lied about being able to deliver the goods. And/or, that was not properly vetted. Families in Seattle Public Schools constantly have to cope with the this.

Also just saying

Bus Fail said...

For a little perspective: when they say "delay", that often means 2+ HOURS. My daughter attends a Title I school and we got a communication blitz last week about 20 minutes before the end of the school day about her bus running 2 hours late. Luckily, I was able to give her and some friends a ride home. What on earth are students supposed to do for 2 HOURS after school? If this is prioritizing Title I schools, I'd hate to see what other schools are dealing with.

Anonymous said...

They said they are providing more Orca cards, I called and asked for one for my daughter whose scheduled bus is ALWAYS 1 hr late so she must take metro to be on time. Transportations response was they won't give her one because she has a scheduled bus! I pointed out that it never showed up in time to get her to school so she must take metro, response "but she has a bus already so we can't give an Orca card"..

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