Kauai News

School Bus Routes Suspended Across the State Due to Surge, Staffing Issues

Posted January 19, 2022, 7:30 AM HST ·Updated January 18, 5:16 PM

Bus routes are down this week across Hawai‘i as COVID-19 is creating staffing issues for the State Department of Education, bus drivers included.

Some Hawai‘i parents were informed in a letter last week that the morning and afternoon routes servicing schools were suspended this week until at least Friday, Jan. 21 because of a shortage of drivers.

“The driver shortage is the result of a number of factors including an overall national and local driver shortage and staffing gaps caused by drivers needing to isolate or quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19,” the letter states.

It’s an issue that is affecting the Hawai‘i Department of Education, or HIDOE, across all islands.

As of Tuesday, Jan. 18, 28 school bus routes were temporarily suspended statewide due the ongoing shortage of drivers, an HIDOE spokesperson told Kauai News Now. The department said it is working with bus contractors to help them get back to normal service levels.

“The department has consolidated routes and added multiple runs to ensure as much coverage as possible,” HIDOE spokesman Derek Inoshita said. “Bus contractors have engaged their licensed managers and supervisors to drive routes whenever possible. The department has also reached out to other operators who meet the Department of Transportation driver and vehicle requirements for transporting students; however, the driver shortage is not specific to student transportation and is affecting all transportation companies.”

Up-to-date information on all the routes is available on the state website, bit.ly/HIDOE-Buses as well as options for mileage refunds and reimbursements.

“Like in all sectors and industries, service disruptions due to COVID-related staffing shortages is a possibility,” Inoshita said.

It’s not a problem unique to Hawai‘i, either, Inoshita pointed out. COVID infections and competition in the transportation industry are national issues. Hawai‘i was grappling with the issue last year, too.

A nationwide survey from School Transportation News states that 80% of school districts across the country are experiencing bus driver shortages due to the specific qualifications of commercial driver’s licenses. The Jan. 10 article also points out that growing competition in the industry is a big part of that.

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