Durham School Services holds open house amid bus driver shortage

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 4:42 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In 2020, Durham School Services was awarded the contract to bus students in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

Last school year, staffing shortages plagued the business’ operations in the Interior.

According to Lasean Willis, Operations Supervisor with Durham, “We really, really, really need drivers. In order to cover all the routes, we have to have drivers.”

130 bus routes operate in the Fairbanks school system, with not enough drivers to run them.

This has led to alternating routes and reduced services. Willis lamented, “It literally breaks my heart whenever we have to switch things around to accommodate what we have because we don’t have enough drivers.”

Durham operates a fleet of 143 buses in the district.

The technology in these buses has improved since many of their passengers’ parents went to school.

Sammy Obeso, Safety and Training Supervisor at Durham said, “The technology has changed a lot, more to protect the kids. The seating has changed. They’ve done studies on what will actually help the kids inside the bus, more padding... the systems, from the crossing arm to the lighting systems that are automatic, that default to help the kids, keep them safe.”

Each unit has cameras that record both inside and outside the bus while it’s running, in case of bullying or other incidents.

A system has also been put in place to make sure students are not left on the bus at the end of the day.

With a public address, or PA, system, drivers can now make announcements both inside and outside the bus, giving them the ability to warn walking students about dangers around the vehicle.

Each new driver must complete a required training course. “You have to go to the DMV, get your testing done, get your permit,” Obeso said. “We have classroom time for about 20 hours and then behind the wheel training out on the roadway, and closed course for about 20 (hours)... maybe a little bit more than 20, closer to 25.”

More information about school bus driving in the Interior can be found at Durham School Services’ website, or by visiting the company’s Fairbanks facility at 1853 Standard Avenue.

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