SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – In the face of bus driver staffing shortages, Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS) district say they are cancelling seven different bus routes. Bus routes 4, 5, 6, ,17, 19, 20, and 23 will officially stop running starting Nov. 6.
“As of today, we have eliminated seven bus routes,” said Gabe Romero, executive director for operations for SFPS.
The discontinued routes will impact Atalaya, Chaparral, Tesuque and Wood Gormley Elementary schools, El Camino Real Academy, El Dorado Community School, Milagro Middle School, Early College Opportunities High School, Mandela International Magnet School, and Santa Fe High School.
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“At some point, you reach a tipping point or point of critical mass when you’re not providing the service you would like to provide, and every day is chaotic,” Romero said.
Before COVID-19, SFPS had around 60 routes running throughout the district, but that number has continued to dwindle, with only 39 routes now in operation. Officials say they have used different incentives to bring more drivers on board, like increasing pay and adding sign-on bonuses.
They are, however, turning to other solutions to address the issue, such as offering a per diem for families who will now have to take their students to school in their own vehicles. Parents need to fill out paperwork to get approved by the district. If approved, parents could receive around 50 cents per mile. “It’s not convenient for a lot of people, and for a lot of other people it’s really serious, that have limited transportation,” Romero added.
Another way they’re coping with the shortage is by launching a hub transportation system. Parents can drop off their students at the closest elementary school and would be taken to their middle, or high school. This excludes Chaparral, Tesuque, and Atalaya.
“We will start reopening routes as soon as we feel confident that we’re not going to have to open and close a route again,” Romero explained.
The district says they are short ten drivers but would like to hire at least 12 in case some drivers call out in an emergency. Officials said they cover CDL training costs and pay the drivers as they go through the course, which typically takes about 80 hours to complete.