Some Spokane parents to deal with bus delays as school district finds solutions

SPOKANE, Wash. — For the next few weeks, some families in Spokane Public Schools should expect bus delays for their kids.

There’s a shortage of bus drivers across the Inland Northwest and the country. Districts and companies are having a tough time finding drivers. Several school districts are working on solutions, but for now, at least in Spokane Public Schools, some buses will be delayed.

Buses were lined up at North Central High on Thursday afternoon ready to pick students up and take them home for the day. It was on time on Thursday, but it won’t be every day.

For North Central High specifically, buses can be two hours late for some routes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Communication sent home to families says the school and families should expect delays on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays as well, but details are still not known yet.

Delays will happen to a few different schools in the district, too. Students attending the Libby Center and Franklin Elementary have received those notifications as well.

Parent Katie Hattenburg received notification about the delays earlier this week.

On Tuesday, she said they were waiting for the bus a little before 8 a.m. when she got a text message about her sons’ bus.

“It said it was going to be 70 minutes late. I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ I thought it was a typo at first, but nope got an email with the same information,” she said, adding that their usual morning pick-up is at 8:04 a.m.

Hattenburg ended up driving her kids to school as well as a neighbor’s student.

She then received notification that this will be happening every Tuesday for the next six weeks.

“Then in my mom’s group, other parents were reporting the same issue, because I asked about it,” she said. “One mom said she got an email it was going to be every Wednesday for the next six weeks.”

RELATED: Spokane Public School leaders discuss bus driver shortage at board meeting

Spokane Public Schools contracts with Durham School Services, which has been struggling to hire.

Even before the pandemic, Durham School Services constantly tried to hire drivers.

Once the pandemic hit, it made it more difficult. There’s a vaccine mandate in place now for drivers, as they’re part of school staff who need to get vaccinated per Governor Jay Inslee.

Durham School Services previously told 4 News Now 10 drivers left because they didn’t want to comply. However, a spokesperson also said a majority of staff will get vaccinated.

It’s still not enough right now as the district is changing plans to take kids to and from school.

“When we’re adjusting a route time, we’re doing everything we can to give parents as much notice as possible because there’s such a significant driver shortage,” said Dr. Adam Swinyard, the superintendent of SPS. “That also translates into not having a pool of substitute drivers.”

If drivers call in sick in the morning, it’s possible routes will be impacted, too. The district said Durham School Services has hired 24 new drivers and they’re getting trained now.

In the meantime, bus routes will be affected and some students should expect different buses to pick them up. The district said it will also be using vans to pick up students in routes where there are fewer students.

“I feel for our current bus drivers. I can’t even imagine the stress they’re under right now,” Hattenburg said.

The district is asking families who can drive their kids to and from school to do so.

RELATED: Some Spokane families can see bus delays by 2 hours

RELATED: Families across the Inland Northwest affected by bus driver shortages