HIDOE continues to work with school bus contractors to recruit drivers and restore routes
The Department continues to work with its school bus contractors statewide to recruit and retain drivers. HIDOE high school students, families are encouraged to apply for free county bus passes as we continue to work to minimize disruptions.
News Release from HIDOE, 04-Aug-2023
HONOLULU — The Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE) continues to work with its school bus contractors statewide to help recruit and retain drivers and restore suspended routes as quickly as possible.
Bus service contractors are continuing to offer and expand hiring bonuses, pay incentives – including daily incentives – and increased benefits, and some contractors have offered to deploy buses and personnel to neighbor islands to assist. Incentives and recruitment information has been posted on our website at: bit.ly/HIDOEschoolbuscontractors.
All available school bus drivers are being assigned to cover federally mandated special education transportation services and prioritize the transportation of elementary and middle school students. More than 200 drivers are needed to fully staff school bus routes statewide.
With the support of Gov. Josh Green, the HIDOE and the state Department of Transportation are exploring a possible exemption to the federal requirements for school bus drivers. If approved, the move would help expand the pool of qualified drivers with current commercial driver’s licenses who could assist with student transportation.
As previously announced, due to an ongoing bus driver shortage, the Department is transitioning nine of O‘ahu’s 24 high schools to solely use the city's public bus system for student transportation for the upcoming school year. Four schools on Kauaʻi will also have to rely on county transportation via the Kauai Bus. Students at impacted schools who do not plan to use public transportation will need to find alternate means of transport.
The Department is offering free county bus passes to all high school students through its EXPRESS program in partnership with the counties. (Although these passes are available to all HIDOE high school students, only one type of bus pass can be obtained per student – yellow school bus pass or county bus pass.) Information on signing up for EXPRESS is below.
To date, 3,600 students have signed up for free county bus passes through EXPRESS.
“We encourage our high school families to activate their county bus passes on all islands if bus transportation to and from school is needed,” Assistant Superintendent Randall Tanaka said. “As the school year starts, we will monitor bus ridership data in real time to see where routes may be adjusted or restored. We ask for our families’ patience as we continue to work to minimize disruptions.”
Oʻahu high school students who will be riding the City & County of Honolulu’s TheBus system will have a one-week grace period to ride city buses for free during the first week of school from Aug. 7 to 11 while their new subsidized HOLO student ID is activated.
The HIDOE’s updated EXPRESS pass is a HOLO card integrated with the student ID for all O‘ahu students in grades 9-12. These cards must be activated online at iportal.k12.hi.us/EXPRESS, with parental consent.
The grace period will allow an extra week for O‘ahu families to activate their student’s HOLO ID. A parent letter is being sent to affected families today.
Students who have received the new HOLO student ID but have not yet activated it, may simply show the new ID to the bus driver.
Students who have not yet received their HOLO student ID may show a school-issued picture ID from the last school year to the bus driver.
Once activated, HOLO student ID should be scanned to ride TheBus or Skyline.
Once activated, the cards will be valid until May 31, 2024 and can be used for free transportation to and from school and other destinations. Students are reminded that TheBus will stop at city bus stops and not at suspended school bus stop locations.
Routes at four schools have been suspended at Kapa‘a Elementary, Middle and High, and Hanalei Elementary. The Department is offering county bus passes for Kauai Bus for high school students and for families who feel this is an appropriate option for their younger students. Parents would fill out an online application at iportal.k12.hi.us/EXPRESS.
School bus routes on Maui have been modified to prioritize special education and younger students. Schools should have contacted families about school bus service options. County bus passes for Maui Bus will be distributed to high schools as soon as possible. Parents would fill out an online application at iportal.k12.hi.us/EXPRESS. School bus routes on Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi are currently not affected.
School bus routes on Hawai‘i Island have been modified to prioritize special education and younger students. Schools should have contacted families about school bus service options. Hele-On, the county bus program for Hawai'i Island, is currently fare free to the general public. Visit https://www.heleonbus.hawaiicounty.gov/home-transit for more information on routes and pick up times.
For questions about the EXPRESS program, please see a list of frequently asked questions at https://bit.ly/HIDOE-EXPRESS-FAQ.
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