Transportation for the 2021-22 School Year

Transportation Update September 3

Seattle Public Schools is committed to consistency and predictability for our students and families. At the start of school, some students may experience delays in yellow bus service. We recognize that this is frustrating for our families, and this is not the excellent service we work to provide.  

We are working hard to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, including exploring creative solutions: 

  • Our transportation vendor, First Student, is continuing to recruit and train more drivers. Many drivers are currently being trained and will support bus routes as soon as possible.  
  • We are exploring providing service in shuttle vans that could be supported by other drivers. 
  • We are looking into how we can adjust and combine routes to reduce delays.  
  • We are working to provide more ORCA cards for some Middle School students experiencing delays to take public transportation to school. All high school students currently receive ORCA cards. 

Transportation staff works with First Student to identify which routes are affected based on staff availability and informs families as soon as possible. Staff also work in partnership with school leaders to ensure they are informed. No students will be counted as tardy due to a transportation delay.  

Families of students who qualify for transportation can reach out to the Transportation Department to update their contact preferences, if needed. 

We are currently facing a nationwide shortage of certificated bus drivers amidst an ongoing pandemic. SPS will continue to provide updates as we work to respond to this nationwide issue.  

Start of School Transportation Information

For the 2021-22 school year, all students who qualify will receive district transportation. 

Qualifying for transportation is based on your student’s grade level and distance from school. For example, an elementary student who lives one mile from their assigned neighborhood school will receive yellow bus transportation. Read the transportation FAQ to see how students become eligibility for transportation.

We will mail your student’s bus stop and route information starting August 25. We are also working to share a list of all general education bus stops with families. 

There may be delays on some yellow bus routes during the start of school while our vendor, First Student, hires and trains more drivers.

In the event of a bus delay, transportation staff will send a voice or text message to the contact number on file for your student.

The Transportation Department is actively working on alternative options to increase access, including sharing King County Metro’s Ride Share program.  

New Address or New Phone Number

If you have moved or have a new contact phone number, please update your student’s information with our Enrollment team and email the Transportation Department with your student’s ID number and the new address or phone number. This way, we can update your student’s route and contact information to ensure the proper bus route assignment, and that voice or text messages are sent to the right contact number. 

  1. First complete the change of address with Enrollment Services
  2. Email the Transportation Department your student’s ID number, new address or new phone number

Students and Metro Bus Cards

All high school students and some eligible middle school students will receive an ORCA card. Students eligible for ORCA Cards may pick them up from their school.  

Public Transportation Options 

Tips for SPS students using King County Metro to get to school 

A growing number of SPS students are returning to the classroom this year using Metro as their “school bus.” For those students and their families, check out these five helpful tips to assist you in getting to school. 

Via to Transit 

King County Metro has expanded their Via to Transit pilot, making it easier for students to get to school. 

Via to Transit is public transportation that comes to you – it’s a pilot service that connects riders to and from transit and community hubs in four service areas. Anyone aged 13 and older in the service areas can download the Via app or call to request an on-demand ride.  

The cost for Via to Transit is the same as riding the bus ($1.50 for youth) —and your fare transfers between bus or light rail and Via. Students can pay using a provided Youth ORCA card, a Transit GO Ticket, or using a credit/debit card in the Via app/call center. Accommodations can be made for riders with disabilities and bike racks are available by request. Learn more at King County Metro website

Health and Safety

The health and safety of students using district-provided transportation is a top priority. Students will physically distance to the greatest extent possible. As students enter a yellow bus, they will move to the furthest open seat in the back. Only if each bus seat contains one student will students begin sitting in the same seat. All bus windows will be open to some extent to provide consistent airflow throughout the bus if doing so will not pose a safety risk. 

Questions?

For information about eligibility for ORCA cards and yellow bus transportation, please contact transportation via Let’s Talk.  

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