First Student, a longtime provider of student transportation services to Seattle (Wash.) Public Schools, was forced to split service with alternative transportation provider Zum earlier this summer.
But now, because Zum "acknowledged it could not provide the district with sufficient drivers or buses," according to a news release, First Student is taking over 78 of Zum's 184 routes through December 2023.
“We take great pride in working to recruit and retain the best employees in the region and have been very successful in creating a robust and stable team of great drivers,” said Michael Hamel, First Student’s area general manager, in the First Student release. “While we didn’t anticipate Zum to have difficulty meeting the demand of the recently awarded contract, we are pleased to be in a position to step in and make sure the district can live up to its commitment to provide safe and convenient transportation options for Seattle students.”
Hamel added that First Student’s driver recruitment continues to attract highly qualified drivers and can help further if needed: “We agreed to step in and assist the district in covering these 78 routes until January, but if the district needs us, we are able and ready to continue as long as they need us, wherever they need us."
Seattle Public Schools is scheduled to begin classes on Sept. 7.
In an update to parents, Fred Podesta, the SPS assistant superintendent of operations, said both First Student and Zum are recruiting school bus drivers in hopes of adding bus routes that had been scaled back due to the driver shortage.
"We know this solution is far from perfect, and we are doing everything we can to minimize disruption," the update reads. "Families who will not have bus service for the start of school may feel frustrated and upset. We are committed to making sure that all students who need it have safe and dependable transportation to and from school. We hope that the driver shortages will be resolved quickly so we can resume all bus service."