UniteGPS – Board members at Spokane Public Schools in Washington have proposed a series of new short-term solutions for ongoing hiring challenges in the transportation department. 

Far from perfect for both drivers, students, and parents, these measures include potential earlier pick-up times and reduced bus stops. In turn, this means that more students would be walking to school.

Originally covered by Jim Allen at The Spokesman-Review, one potential temporary solution includes expanding the walking zone for older students from one to one-and-a-half miles. If implemented, this means that middle and high school students would need to start walking to class more often. 

A prior board meeting on March 23 deliberated about increasing the walk zone to two miles, eventually reduced to one-and-a-half miles after the most recent April presentation. 

Another proposal includes decreasing the number of bus stops per school, meaning that even students eligible for bus rides would still need to start walking longer distances. There is also discussion about increasing the time in between routes, ultimately elongating waiting times to leave school at the end of the day. 

Moreover, sources report a potential collaboration with the Spokane Transit Authority to transport high school students, in addition to alternative transportation options with  Choice, Excelsior, Express, among other private companies.

Spokane Public Schools bus service

As of right now, the Spokane School Board still hasn’t determined any of these short-term solutions. No matter what happens, though, it’s going to be a combinative effort as the community grapples with finding enough bus drivers through its provider, Durham School Services. 

For the past four years, Spokane Public Schools and Durham have had a five-year contract annually costing between $10 and $13 million.

Considering that Durham is responsible for recruiting enough drivers to cover routes, the private company has been hard-pressed to find enough candidates just like school districts. The transportation company is responsible for staffing 105 routes but currently only has 95 working on the staff. Trainers and other Spokane administrators have lent a hand when necessary,

​​As the contract end date approaches, now the Spokane School Board is contemplating changing transportation providers or changing operations. That’s to say, a potential long-term solution for the school district is to start managing its own student transportation operations. 

Recently Durham had to increase the hourly wage for Spokane bus drivers to $18.90 as well as $4,000 sign-on bonuses for new hires with a prior CDL. Prospects requiring CDL training would qualify for a $2,000 sign-on bonus.