A school-bus driver shortage in Seattle meant thousands of students arrived late on their first, second and third days of school. On Friday morning, most of the two dozen delayed bus routes were running an hour or more behind schedule, according to an alert on the Seattle Public Schools website.
"Students are not penalized for tardiness," said a statement from the district's transportation department. It said when there are transportation delays, parents should be notified.
The delays affected buses headed to schools all around the city, including Rainier View Elementary School, Seattle World School and Bailey Gatzert Elementary. The district has a $27 million annual contract with First Student for school bus service.
First Student did not respond to requests for more information or comment, but a spokesperson for the company told KIRO 7 that a bus-driver shortage is causing the delays.
On Thursday, 15 routes were delayed.
About 400 bus drivers in Seattle work for First Student, according to early 2018 numbers. The union representing the drivers called a strike twice during the 2017-2018 school year, leaving 12,000 students without a ride for a combined eight days.
Teamsters Local 174 spokesperson Jamie Fleming said she doesn't think the strikes have much to do with the slow hiring. If anything, she said, the expanded benefits package and retirement plan would encourage more people to apply. She said the driver shortage is likely caused by a low unemployment rate, and by the fact that drivers work only about six hours a day. Anecdotally, she's also heard that many drivers went to work for King County Metro in the last year.