- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - A lack of bus drivers in the Fairbanks area is making some students late to class.

According to the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, as many as 16 bus routes do not have a driver on any given day in the district, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://bit.ly/2ndJiRt). District officials have been coping with the shortage by combining some of the 128 bus routes currently in operation.

A spokesman for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s transportation contractor First Student said the bus driver shortage is a nationwide issue that they are trying to deal with.

“This is something that is going on all over the place,” First Student spokesman Chris Kemper said. “It can be a tough job to recruit for.”

Starting pay for bus drivers is $19.50 per hour, but hours are irregular with a large gap in the middle of workday. Qualifications for the job are also tough. Drivers need to pass a background check, a drug test and be able to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

The Ohio-based contractor said it is training new drivers and flying in drivers from Juneau to help get students to school after spring break.

About 7,000 students in Fairbanks and North Pole ride the bus daily. Fairbanks district transportation coordinator Ryan Hinton said it’s hard to determine how many students are being affected by the current bus driver shortage.

“The bottom line is: Late is late, and one student being late to class is too many,” Hinton said.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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