Final school bus routes restored

Ground Transport Inc. school buses are lined up at the Central Maui Baseyard along Mokulele Highway on Aug. 1. The last two suspended bus routes for Baldwin High and Iao Intermediate have been restored. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui News

The last two suspended school bus routes for Baldwin High and Iao Intermediate were back in service Monday, ending five weeks of frustration and scrambling by parents and school administrators at three Maui schools.

Bus service at Baldwin High, Iao Intermediate and Lahainaluna High schools, affecting 380 students, was not provided at the start of the school year in early August due to a shortage of drivers with a commercial driver’s license. Oahu-based Ground Transport won a seven-year contract to provide school bus service to Baldwin, Maui and Lahainaluna complexes beginning this school year but had difficulty securing drivers due to delays in confirming the contract and drivers not switching over from previous vendor Roberts Hawaii as expected.

Angry parents had to take time off from work or make other arrangements to get their children to and from school, and administrators had to accommodate late-arriving students.

The department chose to work with Ground Transport rather than void the contracts, and bus routes slowly have been restored this month as new CDL drivers came onboard. Two weeks ago, Lahainaluna service came back online. Two Iao Intermediate routes were restored last week.

“With the restoration of these final two routes, serving Baldwin High and Iao Intermediate, all schools on all islands are receiving bus service,” said department spokesman Derek Inoshita on Monday. A school bus driver shortage also impacted service on Kauai.

The crisis is not totally over. Consolidated routes at Maui High have kept students after school longer. Five more drivers are required to restore these routes to normal schedules, he said.

Three weeks ago, 11 drivers were needed; that was down to seven Friday. Qualified school bus drivers still are being sought by Ground Transport, which is offering hiring bonuses and increased wages.

Interested CDL drivers should contact the Student Transportation Services Branch at (808) 586-0170 as soon as possible. Interested drivers without a CDL could obtain the license in a training and testing process that takes three weeks.

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