Snoqualmie Valley School District (SVSD) bus drivers were left scrambling to pick up and drop off students last Friday, Oct. 25.
About eight bus drivers called in saying they would not be able to come into work Friday morning, SVSD spokesperson Carolyn Malcolm said.
The drivers either called in sick or for medical or personal reasons.
Hiring and retaining school bus drivers has been a longtime challenge for school districts across the state, Malcolm said. SVSD is no exception.
SVSD transportation director, Jim Garhart, said while it’s been an ongoing challenge he’s never seen a shortage like the one on Friday.
“It’s been going on for at least 10 years,” he said.
The district has about 48 drivers and only has three substitute drivers, according to Malcolm. There are about 40 bus routes in the district. The driver shortage on Friday affected about 20 of those routes.
“We just don’t have enough drivers,” Garhart said. “We had everyone out there driving on Friday. Other buses picked up other routes, most making double runs.”
Several routes were combined to accommodate the need. Students on the affected bus routes experienced about a 30 minute delay in drop-off time, Garhart said.
Parents were notified about bus route changes through Bus Bulletin. Parents can sign up for Bus Bulletin email and text notifications on the SVSD website (https://www.svsd410.org/Page/4122).
Garhart said the district is exploring other transportation options to supplement the lack of drivers. The district is working to subcontract with other agencies to get more drivers. He thinks the reason why it’s difficult to hire and retain bus drivers state-wide is due to its split schedule.
“You work in the morning, have the early afternoon off, and then work in the afternoon,” he said. “Some people don’t like that schedule, and it’s difficult for them to work that kind of schedule.”
However, he said, there are pluses to being a driver — especially if they have a child in the district.
“It’s great because you get the same breaks as your kid. Also, your child can ride on the same route you drive,” he said.
Garhart wanted to highlight that there is a district job fair for school support positions happening Nov. 13. School support positions include bus drivers, custodians, cooks and paraeducators. It will be held from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. at Snoqualmie Middle School.