Press "Enter" to skip to content

State suspends bus services at four Kaua‘i schools amid driver shortage

LIHU‘E — The Hawai‘i State Department of Education announced last week that bus services will be completely or partially suspended at four schools on Kaua‘i and 10 high schools on O‘ahu when the school year begins on Aug. 7.

Kapa‘a High School, Kapa‘a Middle School, Kapa‘a Elementary School and Hanalei Elementary School will see canceled services on Kaua‘i. ‘Aiea High, Campbell High (3 of 4 school bus routes suspended), Castle High, Kailua High, Kapolei High, Mililani High, Nanakuli High &Intermediate (all high school bus routes suspended, intermediate school routes will continue), Pearl City High, Wai‘anae High, and Waipahu High will have suspended services on O‘ahu, according to the state Department of Education.

All impacted students will instead be offered free subsidized passes for their respective county’s public bus system.

Additionally, parents will be able to apply to receive mileage reimbursement for driving their children to school when a county bus is not available, but those requests will be reviewed and approved on a “case-by-case basis.”

The department estimated that a total of 250 students on Kaua‘i and 1,130 high school students on O‘ahu will be impacted by the reduction in services.

All available bus drivers at the impacted schools on Kaua‘i have been assigned to cover students with special needs, according to Nanea Kalani, a communications director with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education.

She told The Garden Island that the problem is both a national and statewide issue caused by the limited pool of available drivers.

“We did have route consolidations last year. The bus driver shortage has been a multiyear ongoing challenge. But this is the first year that there are multiple high schools affected,” she said.

Derek Onishita, a communications specialist with the department, said in a statement that 76 school bus drivers have vacated their positions over the last year and recruiting new drivers has been a challenge.

“Among eight bus service contractors statewide, an estimated 226 additional drivers are needed to fully staff school bus routes,” said Onishita.

He noted the department has made efforts to recruit qualified bus drivers, including reaching out to school and tour bus operators on the mainland, the National Guard and firefighters.

“All of these groups were unable to assist due to their own staffing shortages and liability issues,” he said.

“Bus service contractors are continuing to offer hiring bonuses, pay incentives and increased benefits to attract and recruit new drivers,” he added.

Krislyn Yano, another communications specialist with the Department of Education, said the state is working with bus contractors to hire more drivers, but she did not say when regular schedules might resume.

“Once more drivers are available, regular education routes will be put back into service,” she said in an email to The Garden Island.

Impacted students can obtain county bus service passes through the state’s EXPRESS program, which stands for Expanding Ridership to Educate Students in Schools.

The statewide program started during the 2022 to 2023 school year in an effort to help with the bus driver shortage.


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or
Source: The Garden Island

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: