As school begins for tens of thousands of public school students across the state, both Maui and Kauai are grappling with a bus driver shortage that will undoubtedly cause problems for hundreds of students who ride the bus as their main mode of transportation.
“Due to a lack of available school bus drivers on Kauai, bus routes at these six schools will be consolidated to adjust to fewer personnel,” said Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson, in a statement. “As a result, route times will be modified to accommodate the longer distances and students will see some delays and slightly longer travel times.”
On Maui, Mayor Alan Arakawa said the county's bus service can't accommodate the 250 students whose school bus service has been cut because of a driver shortage.
On Friday, Arakawa met with representatives of the state Education Department and Roberts Hawaii to try to find a solution to the bus problems before the start of the school year next week.
But no deal was made, and the mayor is urging parents to find other transportation options for their kids.
DOE officials reiterated that message, and apologized for the problem.
“We have explored all options and have been unable to assist in securing licensed drivers for these critical routes,” Carlson said. “We apologize for this temporary inconvenience and routes will be restored as new bus drivers are hired.”
According to the DOE, all bus routes serving students in grades 9 to 12 will be temporarily suspended at Lahainaluna High, Baldwin High and Iao Intermediate schools. Affected students are eligible for a free monthly Maui Bus youth pass.
At Maui High, certain bus routes will be temporarily consolidated, which means longer wait times for students. Students will be provided with a free school bus pass for now.
The changes -- effective starting on the first day of school on Aug. 8 -- will remain in place until the state can hire more bus drivers. Increased pay and hiring bonuses have been offered to attract applicants.
Bus service for special education students will not be affected.