First Student, the company that provides school-bus service to Seattle Public Schools, is upping pay for its beginning drivers to keep them around longer, according to an announcement posted on the Seattle Public Schools website. The move follows weeks of significant bus delays, due to driver shortages, that caused some Seattle families to reconsider bus service since the school year started on Sept. 6.
The company brought this solution to the table, said First Student spokesperson Chris Kemper. He said he would not disclose how much starting pay would increase until next week. The current pay for a beginning driver is $18 an hour.
First Student and the district have been in daily contact about solutions, said Kemper. District officials were not immediately available for comment.
The 15 to 35 vacant positions will be filled by early October, the announcement said. Right now, about 50 drivers are in training. In the meantime, the post said, the district is giving out more ORCA cards to students, partnering with a different contractor for buses that transport students with disabilities and providing more funding to schools "when buses are late and additional supervision is needed."
It also asks families to "make alternative plans in case your student's bus is late."
Glitches in the district's parent messaging system during the first week of school meant that some parents didn't get the automated alerts that buses would be late.
"We are also working to provide more timely communications," the statement said.
Thirty-three routes were delayed Wednesday morning, some up to two hours.