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    School Bus Service Resumes Mon., Feb. 12
    Posted on 02/10/2018
    photo of a bus stop sign

    School Bus Service Agreement Reached on Feb. 10

    First Student and the Teamsters Union 174 have reach a contract agreement. Drivers will be back to work on Mon. Feb. 12.

    This news lifts the burden so many in our school community have experienced since the strike began Feb. 1.

    We are deeply appreciative to all who have worked to ensure educational continuity during this time. Mostly, we thank our families for their patience as negotiations between First Student and the union reached this conclusion.



    Frequently Asked Questions

    If you have questions that are not addressed below, please send us an email at

    How will I know if my student’s bus is one of those running during the strike?
    The district reminding families about the strike each afternoon with an email or robocall (family-selected preference). Families receive a second district contact if their student’s bus is expected to be in service the next day. If your student’s route is cancelled in the morning, you will receive a morning call from the district.

    We have more than one bus-riding student, but they ride different buses. How will I know which bus – or both – are running?
    For families with students attending different schools and riding different buses, the list of scheduled routes will be attached to your evening email notice.

    What is the impact on attendance rates so far?
    We are using as our baseline the average absence rate for the 28 school days prior to the strike. It takes several days for attendance reports to be balanced. To be as accurate as possible, we are releasing absence rates three business days later. Monday’s figure will be available on Thursday. For Thursday, Feb. 1, there was an increase of 180 absences.

    What can the district due to end the strike?
    The district continues to urge both parties to quickly resolve their dispute. First Student and the Teamsters Union 174 are private parties and are working with a federal mediator to resolve the contract issues. For now, the best course of action is urging both sides to work with the mediator and reach a fair resolution.

    Can you explain the school district's process for selecting a bus vendor?
    The district follows a contracting process where potential vendors are invited to submit bids that would fulfill the district’s requirements outlined in a Request for Proposal (RFP). The School Board approved the current three-year contract with First Student in Feb. 2017. The new contract took effect Aug. 31, 2017 and ends in 2020.

    The district had hoped to select multiple contractors to remedy some of the geographic and service challenges bus contractors experience in the Seattle. However, First Student was the only bidder. Companies that did not submit a bid cited the high cost of real estate and lack of available land for parking and maintaining a bus fleet were strong factors in their decision.

    The Dec. 16, 2016 Board Action Report provides more background into the considerations made in this process.

    Is the district considering purchasing land so it could purchase and operate its own bus fleet?
    No. The district does not have plans to purchase buses. However, if the district owned a large enough parcel, it could provide fleet parking for a future bus vendor, which was cited as one reason vendors did not bid on the last contract. The School Board in January authorized staff to investigate and purchase, if appropriate for district needs, a large parcel of land in south King County. This Board Action Report provides more detail.

    Why are some high school families receiving the daily phone updates about the strike?
    Ingraham and Ballard high schools have a First Student-provided shuttle bus that takes students to and from a nearby transit hub. This service is not running during the bus strike. Since ridership can fluctuate and is not assigned, the district has to notify all families at both high schools.

    School Operations

    Will schools be closed if there is a bus driver strike?
    No. Schools will remain open and on regular schedule.

    Can the district cancel school and make up the days like you would for snow days?
    No. We are required by law to provide 180 days of instruction. Sometimes, our calendar is disrupted because of weather. The state allows us to make up this time at the end of the school year, and the make-up days have been bargained in advance with our teachers union. 

    If we can't get our child to school, will their absence be excused?
    No, a missed day due to a transportation strike is not considered an excused absence under state law.

    What are excused absences?
    Families can read the list of state-wide definition of excused and unexcused absences on the Wash. State Legislature website and the district's associated Superintendent Procedure SP3121PDF icon.

    If a student is late to school because of the strike are they marked tardy?
    Tardiness due to lack of transportation may be excused.

    What options exist if the school buses don’t run?
    We are encouraging families to create alternate plans for getting their child to school. Some of the options include forming carpools or walking school buses with neighbors and classmates, or for students old enough to do so, riding public transport.

    What if I can’t get my child to school?
    In that event, please notify your school. Missed classwork, homework and tests may be made up per approval of the classroom teacher.

    If a student cannot get to school because of a strike how do schools deal with missed assignments?
    We encourage schools to allow all students the opportunity to makeup missed assignments and assessments. The inability to access school buses should not exclude students from taking part in their school work. If possible, consider creative options to allow students to complete work from home.

    What will happen if I can't get to school to pick up my child at the end of the school day?
    Principals are making plans to help supervise students when possible until their family or approved emergency contact can pick them up. Please notify the school of any delays or changes in your child's pickup routine so they are aware and can provide support. Most schools will require that any delay in pickup is pre-arranged due to limited space and staffing. Please contact your school as soon as possible to discuss your family’s needs.

    Special Education, Field Trips, Sports and Before and After-school Programs

    What impacts would a strike have on transportation for special education students?
    Some of our students in special education have district-arranged, private transportation other than a First Student bus. These students’ transportation would not be disrupted. However, any student that rides a First Student bus would be affected.

    What about students who have transportation as a related service in their IEP?
    Only students using yellow buses will be impacted. When available, buses will be prioritized for our Special Education students. If a bus is not available, eligible families can also choose to drive their student to school and be reimbursed for the mileage per established rates. Families who are eligible for this Special Education service have been notified by email and provided more information. Please turn in these reimbursement forms to your student’s case manager.

    How would sports or field trips be affected?
    Charter buses will be used for athletic competitions, but field trips will be canceled.

    Why would the district provide charter buses for sports but not school?
    A little more than 12,000 students ride a yellow bus daily. While we could hire enough charter buses to cover athletic activities, there isn't a provider large enough to meet the needs of our daily yellow bus ridership.

    My child is enrolled in child care at the school. Is there any impact I should plan for?
    We don't expect any impact to child care. However, you should talk to your provider to confirm.

    Will there be transportation for after-school programs?
    If a community partner uses First Student buses, there would not be transportation available. Please check with your child's after school program to see if the program will still be available and what the plans are for transportation.

    Family Communications

    How will the district provide strike and bus service updates?
    The district immediately notify families these ways:

    • Website posts (school and district)
    • Our Facebook and Twitter pages
    • A phone message and email, including messages in home language.
    • Nightly reminders by phone message phone and email, including messages in home language.

    Only the families of those students who ride First Student buses will receive a phone message and email from the district.

    We will notify local media, which likely provide regular updates throughout any strike scenario. We also commit to announce the restoration of bus service as quickly as possible.

    How do I make sure to get a phone call if a strike happens?
    Please make sure your emergency contact information is updated at your child's school. Please also have an emergency contact listed that has permission to pick up your child. Only the families of those students who ride First Student buses will receive a phone message and email from the district.

    Other Questions and Next Steps

    Whose employees are the bus drivers?
    The drivers are employees of First Student. The district has a contract with First Student to provide uninterrupted bus service.

    What obligations does First Student have under its contract with the district?
    First Student is required to provide uninterrupted bus service to the district’s students. First Student promised in its contract to not have a labor strike and is required to provide sufficient pay and benefits to attract and retain a bus driver workforce.