Story by Kaitlin Corbett, MTN News
BOZEMAN, Mont. – The Bozeman School District will cancel four bus routes servicing students to and from Chief Joseph and Sacajawea middle schools due to a bus driver shortage.
The school district announced in a letter to parents that the contracted private bus company, First Student, was unable to hire the necessary amount of drivers to service all of Bozeman School District’s routes.
Effective Monday, the school district will indefinitely suspend services to bus routes 26, 30, 32 and 34, affecting close to 200 students between the two middle schools.
“It’s an unfortunate circumstance,” said Mike Waterman, director of business services for the school district. “We know it puts a big hardship on our families and our communities. There’s more traffic around schools and it just makes things tough for a lot of people.”
First Student experienced a driver shortage in 2016, and, like then, the school district said it remains focused on student safety.
“We’ve opted to run more bus routes than are absolutely necessary, but we feel it’s a good and necessary service for the community,” Waterman said.
Students whose routes are affected are able to take a shuttle bus to and from their local elementary school as follows:
- Longfellow Elementary to/from Sacajawea Middle School – Bus #37
- Irving Elementary to/from Sacajawea Middle School – AM Bus #14; PM Bus #15
- Emily Dickinson Elementary to/from Chief Joseph Middle School – Bus #35
- Hyalite Elementary School to/from Chief Joseph Middle School – Bus #24
- Meadowlark Elementary to/from Chief Joseph Middle School – Bus #24
- Bozeman High School to/from Sacajawea Middle School – Bus #33
- Chief Joseph Middle School – Bus #23
The school district advised in its letter to parents that students who wish to use these alternative buses arrive at the elementary schools by 8:10 a.m. If taking the bus from the high school, arrive at 7:55 a.m.
While the school district believes this solution offers safe alternatives for students, Waterman adds that the district hopes it’s only temporary.
“Obviously we hope to have it resolved as soon as possible, but we’re unfortunately not very optimistic that it’s going to be resolved soon,” he said. “We don’t have a time frame about when we’re going to take these suspensions off, we want to make sure that once we are able to lift them that we’re going to be able to sustain that.”
First Student is currently paying penalty fines to the school district for the shortage.