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Spokane School Board approves new transportation plans amidst bus driver shortage

35% of students in the district take the bus each school day. Some have been arriving more than an hour late.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Durham School Services picks up more than 12,000 students each day. Right now, they have half the drivers they need and can only operate half of the routes. 

Spokane Public Schools believes that problem will linger into the fall, so their goal now is to make available buses as efficient as possible.

Spokane School Board members want to make sure every student gets to class on time next year, unlike this year.

35% of students in the district take the bus each school day. Some have been arriving more than an hour late.

The SPS Transportation Team recommended five short-term solutions. Tonight, board members voted to approve four of them.

The first recommendation is to reduce the number of bus stops by creating centralized hubs where more students can be picked up at once.

The second increases what's called a walk zone radius. Right now, most students that live less than a mile from their school are not eligible to ride the bus. That radius will be extended to a mile and a half, but only for middle and high schoolers. These maps show what that will look like for students at Shadle Park High School.

The third solution approved by the board involves partnering with Spokane Transit Authority to give as many eligible high school students a bus pass. Although student tracking, safety and rirdership rules would need to be established with STA. The district transportation team is meeting with them on Friday.

Finally, the fourth solution includes exploring alternative transportation services. This option is a little more unclear and is still being worked out.

The only suggestion board members did not approve called for earlier bus drop off times. The board did not like the fact that high schoolers would be dropped off at 7:20 a.m., 40 minutes before the first bell.

These are all short-term solutions and the board hopes they won't be permanent. The district's contract with Durham School Services ends at the end of the next school year. Board members are exploring the option of parting ways with Durham altogether and creating their own bus service while partnering with other districts in the county.

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