Education

Alaska National Guard says it can’t help with Anchorage’s school bus driver shortage

ASD, Fairview Elementary, elementary school, school

The Alaska National Guard said Friday that it won’t be able to assist with the severe bus driver shortage experienced by the Anchorage School District due to legal constraints.

ASD has previously said it was exploring the possibility of using National Guard resources to alleviate the driver shortage, which has prompted the district to suspend school bus routes on a rolling basis for weeks at a time. That’s left thousands of families without bus service at the start of this school year.

Alan Brown, spokesman for the National Guard, said in an email Friday that after consulting the state Department of Law, officials determined that state statute — specifically, Alaska Statute 26.05.070 — “does not permit the activation of National Guard members for this purpose.” The statute addresses how the state’s governor can order an “organized militia” for active state service.

Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said in an emailed statement that the Anchorage School District is continuing to explore other options that might ease the burden families face.

“While a viable means of support was not possible, we are very appreciative of Governor Dunleavy and our partners at the National Guard for their collaboration to help find solutions,” Bryantt said.

Under the Anchorage School District’s rotating bus route suspensions, families receive bus route service for three weeks, then service is suspended for six weeks. Some aren’t scheduled for their first bus service until October.

The disruptions to bus service have left many families in a bind, prompting some parents to rearrange their workdays, spend time in long pick-up lines, pay for expensive child care, and consider homeschooling their kids instead.

[Students head back to school in Anchorage on a first day that felt ‘more normal’]

The district said last week that it had enough drivers to provide transportation for only 7,000 of 20,000 eligible students at a time. Special education bus routes were not affected by the suspensions.

The driver shortage is temporary, according to district officials. Dozens of school bus drivers in the training and hiring process won’t be behind the wheel until the end of next month.

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Morgan Krakow

Morgan Krakow is a general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Oregon and spent the summer of 2019 as a reporting intern on the general assignment desk of The Washington Post. Contact her at mkrakow@adn.com.

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