Anchorage School District officials anticipate having enough drivers for normal bus service when school starts

The Anchorage School District is not anticipating a repeat of last year’s severe bus driver shortage that left thousands of families without service for months.

There are 227 bus routes in the district, and as of this week, there were 220 drivers “ready to go,” which means that all but seven of the routes would be covered, district spokesman MJ Thim said in an email. The district was hoping to hire seven more drivers, and had 15 drivers currently in training “that will more than make up the difference,” Thim wrote.

District superintendent Jharrett Bryantt attributed the improved staffing to an approximately 20% pay increase that the district implemented last fall for school bus drivers — from less than $21 an hour to $25 — and a shift in scheduling that allowed all drivers to work year-round, instead of needing to seek employment elsewhere. Bryantt had previously attributed part of last year’s hiring challenges to drivers finding work in the tourism industry for the summer, and those jobs not ending in time for the start of the school year.

The driver shortage left more than 12,000 students without service for months as the district implemented a rotating bus service, severely disrupting many families’ lives.

“We’ve been doing careful planning to prevent that type of crisis from happening again,” Bryantt said. “We expect for all of our students to have access to transportation services, and that’s a great place to be.”

Heather Philp, the district’s senior director of transportation, said the 220 includes drivers who have already returned to work, or are in the process of finishing their required trainings and are scheduled to drive beginning the first day of school.

Still, the district is continuing to recruit more bus drivers — in addition to the $25 an hour pay, it is offering a $1,000 bonus in December for drivers who don’t miss more than two days of work, she said.

“There is no cap” on the number drivers they’re willing to hire, she said.

Annie Berman

Annie Berman is a reporter covering health care and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in San Francisco before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at