The Hawaii Department of Education said Thursday that “progress is being made” by school bus contractors to hire more qualified school bus drivers on Maui and Kauai. 

Maui’s shortage of qualified school bus drivers is currently at 11, down from 20 two weeks ago, according to a press release. Kauai’s shortage of drivers is currently at eight, down from 10.

Several driver candidates in both counties are currently getting their commercial licenses. The DOE said normal routes will be restored as the new drivers are hires. 

As Civil Beat reported, the situation involving contractor Ground Transport has upset parents and elected officials

The Oahu-based company, which won the DOE contract last December to operate some routes on the two island, didn’t have enough drivers when school opened earlier this month. The shortage affected nearly all students on the islands. Bus routes were consolidated, but that left some students waiting up to an hour or longer for transportation.

A Ground Transport bus, pictured in a photo on the company’s website. The company has struggled to find qualified drivers.

Ground Transport, Inc. website

Early this week, state Rep. Angus L.K. McKelvey on Maui renewed his call for a specific timeline for resolution of the school bus crisis, because frustrated parents “want to know when the situation will be resolved.”

“The situation has reached a boiling point as parents are so exacerbated by a lack of a resolution and communication from the state Department of Education about resuming school bus service that they have begun a sign waving protest campaign at Lahainaluna High School,” according to a press release from McKelvey’s office. 

Gov. David Ige said his administration continues to be in contact with the DOE to find a way to resolve the driver shortage, possibly by flying more qualified drivers from Oahu to Maui and Kauai.

Here are the latest bus route updates, according to a DOE press release:

  • On Maui, Lahainaluna High School’s bus route FR 11A and FR 11B will be restored to service on Monday morning, Aug. 21.  

—The single route makes two morning runs. The first serves the Kapalua area on Lower Honoapiilani Road from Kapalua Drive, beginning at 6:33 a.m., and drops off students at the school at 7 a.m. The second morning run on Ainakea Road begins at Kaniau Road at 7:10 a.m. and drops off the second set of students at 7:25 a.m.  

—In the afternoons, the route will make two runs from the school as route FR11BP at 1:55 p.m. to Ainakea Road and a second run at 2:30 p.m. as route FR11AP to the Kapalua area.

—Lahainaluna High’s restored route is in addition to two routes already operating that also service Lahaina Intermediate and Princess Nahienaena Elementary Schools. The first runs to Honokahau Valley and the second to the Olowalu area.

—School bus routes servicing more distant communities will be prioritized as more routes are restored.

  • Routes at Lahainaluna High, Baldwin High and Iao Intermediate have been temporarily suspended and routes have been consolidated to adjust to the staffing shortages. 
  • Kauai school bus routes have been consolidated to adjust to the staffing shortages and all schools are still being serviced. 

Meanwhile, the DOE is looking for more drivers:

“For a limited time, school bus contractors are offering hiring bonuses and increased wages. Interested Commercial Driver Licensed (CDL) drivers should contact the Student Transportation Services Branch at (808) 586-0170 as soon as possible. Interested drivers without a CDL are also being sought. The CDL training and testing process is open and takes approximately three weeks to complete.”

“The department is working hard with our school bus contractors to return affected routes to service and we anticipate more routes to come online in the coming weeks,” Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson said in a statement. “We truly appreciate the patience shown by our parents, students and staff during this time.”

For questions about school bus registration, route or service concerns statewide, contact the Get On Board Hotline at (808) 586-0161.

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