School bus driver shortage to impact services on Oʻahu and Kauaʻi
The continuing shortage of qualified school bus drivers statewide will completely or partially suspend bus transportation services at ten of Oʻahu’s 24 high schools and four schools on Kauaʻi when the new school year begins for students on Monday, Aug. 7.
The high schools listed below will rely heavily on county bus systems for student transportation in School Year 2023-24:
- ʻAiea High
- Campbell High (3 of 4 school bus routes suspended)
- Castle High
- Kailua High
- Kapolei High
- Mililani High
- Nānākuli High & Intermediate (all high school bus routes suspended, intermediate school routes will continue)
- Pearl City High
- Waiʻanae High
- Waipahu High
- Kapaʻa High
- Kapaʻa Middle
- Kapaʻa Elementary
- Hanalei Elementary
All students at these high schools will be provided with subsidized county bus passes to use TheBus on Oʻahu and Kauai Bus for transportation as part of the Expanding Ridership to Educate Students in Schools (EXPRESS) program.
High school bus routes on Maui and Hawaiʻi Island have been modified due to the bus driver shortages, but school bus service will continue. School bus routes on Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi are currently not affected. School bus routes on all islands are subject to change should further staffing shortages occur.
“The continued shortage of school bus drivers in Hawaiʻi and across the nation requires the temporary reduction of high school bus routes to ensure that bus services can continue for special education and younger students,” said Assistant Superintendent Randy Tanaka. “We ask our students and families for their continued patience and understanding and we truly appreciate the support of our county partners in making county bus routes a priority option for our students.”
Based on student ridership from the last school year, approximately 1,130 high school student bus riders will be impacted on Oʻahu and approximately 250 student bus riders on Kauaʻi. Among eight bus service contractors statewide, an estimated 226 additional drivers are needed to fully staff school bus routes. Over the last school year, 76 school bus drivers have vacated their positions.
Since the disruptions to the labor force in both Hawaiʻi and nationwide caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education has reached out to mainland bus operators, tour bus operators, the National Guard and firefighters, among others, to recruit qualified bus drivers. All of these groups were unable to assist due to their own staffing shortages and liability issues. Bus service contractors are continuing to offer hiring bonuses, pay incentives and increased benefits to attract and recruit new drivers.
Families at impacted schools are being contacted by their respective school administrations with detailed route information and guidance.