Some suspended school bus routes in West Maui could be back in service as soon as Monday.
Always Investigating pressed the state Department of Education’s top officials about the bus crisis.
Both the new superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, and her assistant in charge of the bus operations, Dann Carlson, tell us the end of the bus service crunch is near.
Since school started a week ago, there have been no pickups for many routes that serve Lahainaluna and Baldwin high schools, and Iao Intermediate. The DOE says it will announce some restorations there as soon as Monday.
Eleven drivers still need to be hired on Maui.
We found out consolidating 10 Oahu routes, primarily in Central and West Oahu, are freeing up staff to be assigned to the Valley Isle.
- Nanakuli Elementary, Nanaikapono Elementary, Waianae High, Kapolei Middle, Kapolei High, Waipahu Intermediate, Waipahu High, Webling Elementary, Aiea High
Meanwhile late pickups continue, but for nine of 12 contract areas across all islands, it’s been less than the contractually mandated two percent maximum of routes, with most vendors having no late pickups by the third day of school (defined as 10 minutes after the bell).
There have also been “a few reports” of wrong drop-offs.
DOE officials says they have no plans to pursue breach of contract against any vendor short on drivers at this time.
Always Investigating asked, if the routes can be so easily redefined when the originating cause is a shortage of workers by any of the vendors, how can a vendor ever be held to task for that if the route can simply be redesigned?
“We’ll work with the situation and try and work through whatever we can make happen,” Carlson replied. “We have standards that we’re asking them to get to. We want to see a thriving competitive transportation market and I think we’re at a point where we are getting that.”
“I wanted to be very clear about my expectations. I don’t want any students missing instructional time, so we have to resolve this. My tolerance is it has to be done soon,” Kishimoto said.
Kishimoto says she’ll hold weekly Thursday meetings with Maui vendor Ground Transport until all routes are back to normal.
Carlson says long-term, they’ve recommended staggered bell schedules in some areas where the driver shortage is the most severe.
The state set up a “Get On Board” hotline to field questions from the public. As of Aug. 11, the hotline received more than 200 calls that break down as follows: 9% complaints, 41.3% “assistance with route issues,” 49.7% route information request.
You can contact the hotline at 808-586-0161 Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.