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Portland Public Schools is issuing stipends to families and using contracted transport services to get kids to school

PMG FILE PHOTO - A school bus waits in front of a Southeast Portland elementary school in 2021. Portland Public Schools kicked off the 2021-22 school year facing a shortage of bus drivers.Portland Public Schools is scrambling to hire additional bus drivers in the face of a national driver shortage.

The school district is also looking to a variety of other solutions, from contracting with van and taxi companies to helping parents coordinate carpool groups and paying families whose bus routes were cut due to the shortage.

With fewer bus drivers than in prior years, the district has cut its "big bus routes" from 140 to 101 and leaned more heavily on using smaller vehicles through outside providers.

The district said its transportation partner, First Student, is also offering hiring bonuses ranging from $2,500 to $6,500 to new drivers.

PPS staff have acknowledged some bus routes have been canceled with little notice.

"As we explore every option, bus routes will continue to be temporarily delayed or canceled, with about 10 to 15 bus routes, on average, not running each day," a joint message from Dan Jung, chief operating officer for PPS, and Teri Brady, the district's director of transportation, stated.

Ryan Vandehey of the district's media relations team said PPS has contracts with van and taxi companies to provide student transport.

"We are also working with some partners who can provide drivers for us to train to drive PPS vans and sedans," Vandehey said. "The driving and training requirements for the smaller vehicles are less than for a bus as they are similar to a passenger car.

We can board them faster to provide quicker service."

PPS is also offering a $300 monthly family transportation stipend to those impacted by the 13 canceled bus routes. The district said the stipend will be available to families through the end of the school year, or until they're able to restore bus routes.

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