Citing “nationwide staffing shortages,” the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District announced Thursday that all regular bus routes will be placed on a bi-weekly suspension.

Beginning Monday, transportation services for the district’s main bus routes “will be placed on a suspension rotation list every other week for the foreseeable future,” the district said in a news release. Busing for students with special needs will continue normally.

Students who are affected by the suspension will be required to find alternate transportation to and from school.

Since August, the district’s new transportation contractor, Durham School Services, has faced ongoing issues as a result of training delays, Covid-19 and weather. The company was awarded the 10-year contract in January of last year.

“While Durham has hired and trained more drivers ... driver absenteeism is higher than average which puts the number of available drivers below the number needed for the current planned routes,” the release explained.

Although sporadic bus suspensions have been in effect since late August, the district hopes that reducing the number of weekly routes will alleviate some of the last minute cancellations that families and schools have dealt with in recent weeks

“The district continues to assess and pursue long term solutions to this nationwide problem brought to use by the Covid pandemic. Our transportation team is working with all district departments, Durham and reaching out to community resources to put into place solutions that will stabilize pupil transportation issues for our families,” the release said.

The school bus driver shortage has been an age-old problem for the district, and the previous transportation contractor, First Student, also struggled to maintain the bus routes. This year, education leaders changed the school start time and combined routes to reduce the burden.

The district thanked parents and students for their understanding and flexibility.

“Thank you to our families for working together to overcome the effects of route suspensions and last minute changes,” the release said. “We commend our students for staying positive through yet another disruption to their school experience.”

Contact Liv Clifford at 459-7582, lclifford@newsminer.com or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMcrime.

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