FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Schools cancels plan to go to three-tier schedule

Just in from Seattle Public Schools – the much-decried plan to change to a three-tier start schedule, which would have had some schools starting as early as 7:30 am and some as late as 9:30 am, has been scrapped, for now. Just published on the district website:

We have heard from many families who are concerned about the proposal to change school start times.

Superintendent Jones has determined Seattle Public Schools will continue the two-tier transportation system for the 2022-23 school year. This means elementary, K-8, and middle schools will not change their start and end times in September. Some high schools may see a 10-minute change in start time.

This determination will allow us to keep the current structure as we continue to find ways to improve transportation services.

The national bus driver shortage continues to affect our ability to provide full service to all students who are eligible for transportation.

It is likely we will begin the 2022-23 school year with the same reduced bus service that has been in place since last fall. We will continue to explore whether we can restore the routes that have been suspended. Consistent with our strategic plan, SPS prioritizes systems to serve students of color and those furthest from educational justice.

In the coming months, there will be more opportunities to share your feedback and input as we continue to study available options for reliable transportation services. We are committed to ensuring that students arrive at school on time and ready to learn.

Thank you to everyone who sent feedback. If you have questions or comments, please share them with us on our Let’s Talk feedback form.

The three-tier proposal had emerged suddenly, after enrollment decisions for next year – in the district and elsewhere – were made; the district claimed it was necessary because of a shortage of school bus drivers. It was on a rush schedule for School Board votes this month until the superintendent pulled it from the May 4th agenda, acknowledging the need to “slow” the process.

23 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Schools cancels plan to go to three-tier schedule"

  • Anne May 16, 2022 (12:01 pm)


  • Joe Z May 16, 2022 (12:12 pm)

    This is unacceptable. How can a public school system simply fail to provide something as basic as bus transportation for nearly a year? I often leave work in the middle of the day to pick up an elementary school student whose parent is a single mother who works as a nurse. She can’t simply leave work in the middle of the day to pick up her child from school. This is a temporary arrangement that has already been extended far beyond what is reasonable. 

    • Jenben May 16, 2022 (1:46 pm)

      Agreed but it’s just not feasible. There’s no drivers. I wouldn’t want to drive a bus! The systems are failing everywhere. These old systems aren’t sustainable. Look everywhere for more institutions failingX 

    • SLJ May 16, 2022 (2:17 pm)

      Unfortunately this isn’t just SPS. There’s a nationwide shortage of drivers and this has been going on for a few years now. I don’t know what the solution is, but it isn’t simply the fault of the district.

    • Jon Wright May 16, 2022 (3:35 pm)

      We can clutch our pearls and complain that the level of transportation the SPS has been providing is unacceptable, but it isn’t apparent that there is a solution going forward. As mentioned, there is a nationwide shortage of drivers. Metro is having trouble hiring drivers, too. There is no way SPS can bring bus transportation in house. They just do have the capacity and infrastructure.  First Student is the only service provider who has the scale to provide bus transportation to a district the size SPS. All this talk about getting tough with First Student  and making them pay liquidated damages, etc., is very naïve. SPS needs First Student more than the other way around so First Student can just tell SPS “You’ll get what you get…and like it!” because if First Student no bids, SPS will have NO bus transportation. I am curious how seriously Zūm was considered as an alternative to First Student. They have an interesting premise but I’m sure the SPS was skeptical Zūm  would be able to ramp up their operation here in time for fall. That leaves continuing onward with First Student, aka the devil you know. 

      • WS4LIFE May 16, 2022 (4:24 pm)

        The transportation solicitation was not a bid (awarded to lowest bidder), it was an RFP (Request for Proposal) so they evaluate on certain criteria, it’s doesn’t get awarded to the lowest bidder.  Zum offers alternative transportation for the district already, or at least they used to.  The big issue here is hiring (low wages and a challenging job), gas prices and where to house the fleet, Seattle doesn’t have much room to store that many busses.  

        • Kyle May 16, 2022 (4:45 pm)

          I think there were only two bidders? And they gave the new award to the same contractor who failed to meet obligations last time (First Student). There is no competition (or very little) making this a poor use of government contracting. SPS should have bought its own buses like most Washington school districts did years ago to have better control. But they didn’t due to poor short sighted decisions. Now we just pay First Student whatever they want for subpar service. First Student won’t raise the bus driver pay substantially because they are a for profit company and want to keep their margins for their execs and admin staff. The capital costs needed to buy and build your own public non-profit fleet today would certainly result in a large levy that SPS doesn’t have the political will for. So we are stuck.

          • WS Res May 16, 2022 (8:44 pm)

            School districts SOLD their busses and contracted out because Republican-led state governments wanted to shrink government small enough to “drown in a bathtub” and saw outsourcing all kinds of school services as an easy target.  So janitors, bus services, cafeteria services, etc. etc. were all sold off to for-profit companies. Which consolidated and consolidated and consolidated and here we are.  The lack of competition now, when we need to dump the company that is doing such a lousy job, suggests that one or more of these decisions were bad ones. But good luck getting the funding added to school budgets to bring services back in-house along with enticing pay and benefits for drivers.

        • WS Res May 16, 2022 (8:40 pm)

          Seattle doesn’t have much room to store that many busses.  – Presumably the existing busses are stored somewhere already.  

  • K May 16, 2022 (12:20 pm)

    I am really pleased with Superintendent Jones’ performance so far.  I really appreciate his handling of keeping the schools in person and not remote, and I appreciate that he scrapped this 3 tier plan after hearing feedback from parents and other community members.  Thank you for listening!

    • KWest Seattle May 16, 2022 (3:25 pm)

      I agree with you about Superintendent Jones’ leadership. 

    • wsteacher May 16, 2022 (9:40 pm)

      Dr Jones didn’t have a choice but to listen. Does anyone know one teacher or parent that thought that plan was a good idea? I am interested to see how he fixes the Sped systems in the schools and whether he will tighten up spending in the central offices.

    • Shufflerunner May 17, 2022 (10:55 am)

      Starting a fire and then putting it out does not make one good at preventing fires. Let us not forget that this recent kerfuffle started under his leadership along with all the associated messaging. Despite his “Parent Focused” message of caring by blasting us with text messages Mr. Jones reputation internally is of someone rather cold and detached from the job of teaching or running schools. An attitude that appears to permeate through his directorial staff and breeds resentment  between administration and teachers with the Us vs Them mindset. 

  • DJ May 16, 2022 (2:37 pm)

    Maybe pay drivers better and First Student wouldn’t have a hard time finding drivers?? 

    • CarDriver May 16, 2022 (3:34 pm)

      DJ/ Joe Z. Considering all the businesses that are advertising for workers that will pay more than a bus company would be willing to doubt money is the main issue. Unless you want to have laws that force people to work for a company you just have to deal with the fact not enough people are yearning to drive school bus. Are you, or any other parent you know applying to be drivers? Yeah, didn’t think so.

      • Brian May 16, 2022 (4:20 pm)

        I bet if the job guaranteed full benefits you’d see more applicants. 

        • CarDriver May 16, 2022 (6:51 pm)

          Brian. Ummm no. There’s LOT’S of companies with guaranteed full benefits offering bonuses and in one case offering new hires a free cruise. They’re ALL short people.

  • K to the F May 16, 2022 (3:12 pm)

    Seems there’s an alternate to First Student trying to get the bus contract but they’re making little headway: Might be good to bring up at the “conversation” with the Superintendent tonight 5:30-7pm. Register here:

  • Amazon May 16, 2022 (4:10 pm)

    Why would I want to drive the school bus with full of screaming kids and put up with irate parents when I can drive for Amazon and get paid more…with flexible schedule…?

    • The King May 16, 2022 (7:17 pm)

      Exactly. You can get a job paying more than what a bus driver makes anywhere right now without the upfront cdl requirement costs. Washington requires a minimum 160 hours of training after you pass the permit and written tests, drug tests, the classes are around $5000 dollars now due to fuel surcharges going through the roof. Once you’ve gotten your cdl there’s options to make waaaaay more than school buses. 

  • Sasquatch May 17, 2022 (7:28 am)

    First student drivers are part of the teamsters local 174. They had a strike in 2017 because of unfair labor practices and crappy benefits.first student has a reputation as being a horrible employer.I’m sorry to families that have to scramble to get their kids to school and home again – but that is the reality. Highly recommend families begin networking for carpool groups.

  • School Bus Driver May 17, 2022 (8:06 am)

    I drive for First Student. We are paid, on average, $30/hr. There is now a hiring bonus of$3000. There are monthly bonuses for safe driving and a yearly bonus for good attendance.  CDL training is paid (though the driver must pay for the license itself). Health insurance kicks in after one year. While a driver is only guaranteed two 2-hour shifts per day, if you were to become a driver now, you could easily work 30-40 hours per week – of you are willing to pick up girls trips and charter work.Oh, and if kids are routinely screaming on the bus, it’s because the driver hasn’t taken advantage of their own authority, the support of the school staff, and the extensive help available from the dispatchers, safety team and managers of the company. The Teamsters Union is always there to back the driver up as well.Yes, a split shift is not ideal for a lot of people. But, the school bus drivers in Seattle are paid more than drivers in any other district on the region. And, many if not most, do it because they genuinely care for the students and believe in public education.Thanks to all of the commenters who don’t throw the drivers, the district (and even the Seattle location of First Student) under the bus.

    • Another One May 17, 2022 (2:45 pm)

      Thank you for this insight. And thank you for taking care of our kids. You and your teammates are very appreciated by my family!

Sorry, comment time is over.