Education
First Student has increased the wage for new drivers to $22 an hour is offering up to $3,000 in signing bonuses. But the company is still short drivers for the school year in Seattle.
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First Student has increased the wage for new drivers to $22 an hour is offering up to $3,000 in signing bonuses. But the company is still short drivers for the school year in Seattle.

Late Seattle school buses hit low-income kids the hardest

Several buses to some of the district’s poorest schools, including West Seattle Elementary, Emerson Elementary and Wing Luke Elementary, were running two hours late Friday morning.

At least 36 Seattle school buses ran up two hours late Friday morning, and 23 routes ran late in the afternoon, according to the district website.

School staff say the transportation delays, which have been happening since the start of the school year, hit low-income children the hardest.

The district blames a bus driver shortage at First Student, which holds the yellow bus contract, for the six weeks of transportation problems.

Many parents have been working around the problem by driving their children to school or arranging carpools. But that’s hard for parents who can’t afford cars or who work multiple jobs, said Ressie Brown, a site coordinator for the nonprofit Communities in Schools and based at Denny International Middle School.

Brown said this transportation crisis will only exacerbate the opportunity gap for low-income children of color.

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“If they’re not in their classes learning, how can we close this gap?" Brown asked. "It becomes impossible."

The district didn’t make anyone available for an interview with KUOW.

A letter to parents on the district website said the district is prioritizing bus service to low-income schools and for special education students.