Spokane Public Schools looking at possible changes to help with bus issues

SPOKANE, Wash. – Families in Spokane Public Schools continue to deal with late buses and the district says those issues will likely continue through the remainder of the year.

There are currently 95 bus drivers, but in the past, there have been approximately 150 for each route. During the peak of the shortage, there were around 80 drivers.

During that time, office administration even pitched in to help drive students in minivans on smaller routes.

SPS and Durham Bus Services recently consolidated to under 100 routes because of the driver shortage. 

“It is unfortunate because we haven’t been able to get ahead again with adding the drivers to be able to cover those routes,” said SPS Chief Operations Officer Shawn Jordan.

Currently, there are at least 10-11 routes in each elementary, middle, and high school group that are picked up late. Those delays can be as long as 70 minutes. 

That’s what Melanie LeDoux’s two kids are going through on Mondays: late pickup and drop off.

“I don’t make them get on the bus because I just take them myself otherwise I’d be really late to work,” she said.

The district knows families are frustrated. Jordan says there are some who are also patient and supportive given what’s happening.

“This certainly, we recognize, does not meet the expectation that our families have, that our staff have, that we have,” said Jordan.

The district is currently in the fourth year of its five-year contract with Durham. As the contract nears its end, the district is looking at all options to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of transportation services. 

SPS now has a transportation workgroup made up of staff, parents, and a student to create a long-range plan to identify strategies to do so and to plan what could happen next. 

Jordan said all options are on the table, including the district having its own transportation. 

“Operating our own transportation department would definitely be a consideration, and then we have to consider all the logistical pieces that go along with that and the timelines that would be associated with that,” Jordan said. “Again, everything is on the table.”

The workgroup will create a plan and present it to the school board this spring. 

As of now, Durham is still trying to find drivers.

If you are interested in becoming one, here are the qualifications:

  • Needs to be at least 21 years old
  • Complete an extensive background check including drug tests
  • Attend a 40-hour classroom training session
  • Complete a minimum of 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training

Durham School Services says it starts pay at $20 an hour depending on experience. Training for people to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is also paid.

To try and incentivize more people to apply and work with Durham, the company says it’s offering a $3,000 sign-on bonus for people without a CDL and $4,000 sign-on bonus for those with a CDL.

To learn more about how to apply, click here.

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