Drivers risk school bus service as vaccine mandate approaches

Parents in Seattle Schools are just a week away from knowing whether they will lose bus service for their kids.

In an email sent late Friday, the district said it may have to cut two-thirds of its general education bus routes because not enough drivers are complying with the Governor’s vaccine mandate.

The email said upwards of 100 drivers may be out Oct. 18 – next Monday – because they haven’t met Governor Inslee’s mandate to be fully vaccinated by then.

“I had a little bit of a panic because one of my kids takes the bus to and from school every day,” said Kirsten Finn, who has a 5th grader at Greenwood Elementary in Seattle.

The district gives him bus service because he lives more than a mile away and would have to walk across many dangerous intersections to get to school.

“It’s way more of a risk in my opinion for them to be crossing busy intersections to get here than for them to be driving with an unvaccinated bus driver,” Finn said.

Finn is a nurse who understands the dangers of COVID-19, but she said there are other ways to keep kids on the bus safe.

“If you don’t have a vaccinated bus driver and you’re really concerned you could put in a Plexiglas divider. You know you could drive the bus with the windows open. All the kids have masks on already,” Finn said.

Finn and other parents worry that working-class neighborhoods may be hit the hardest.

“In some neighborhoods, if the bus doesn’t come it’s not a big deal, parents can pitch in.

“They may have flexible work schedules they may have a stay-at-home parent who can drive the kids if the bus never comes.

In other neighborhoods that may not be the case,” said Kate MacNeale.

The school district said it will let parents know about their bus routes as soon as possible and certainly before Monday, Oct. 18.

Private company First Student handles school bus services for the district. It didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

A spokeswoman for Teamsters Local 174, which represents the bus drivers, said the number of unvaccinated bus drivers is likely fewer than 100.

She said the union encourages all drivers to get vaccinated.