Bus drivers added but several Stillwater school routes still uncovered

With a new school year set to get underway Tuesday, Stillwater Area Public Schools and parents in the district are already trying to handle a major issue: canceled bus routes.

Superintendent Malinda Landsfeldt notified families last week that the district’s transportation vendor, Metropolitan Transportation Network, doesn’t have enough bus drivers and had to cancel at least 21 bus routes, meaning affected parents will need to find alternative transportation for "the foreseeable future."

The district got some good news Monday when Metropolitan Transportation said it was able to cover seven more routes than originally planned but more than a dozen routes remain uncovered.

Stillwater Area Public Schools said it’ll open its schools earlier than normal for student drop-off to help families impacted by canceled bus routes, with high school set to open at 6:15 a.m., middle schools at 7 a.m. and elementary schools at 7:45 a.m.

The school board also has an emergency meeting set for 5 p.m. Tuesday to discuss strategies to address transportation issues.

Landsfeldt issued sent the following statement to families on Monday with the news:

"I know it has been a challenging weekend for many of our families and staff. I’d like to personally apologize for the chaos and hardships that were created by the announcement last Friday that a number of bus routes were being canceled this week. We’ve endured so much in the past two school years and this is not how any of us wanted to start our new year. This is a difficult situation and I am so sorry for the added stress so many of our families are now enduring. I want to assure you we are doing everything in our power to try to resolve this situation as quickly as possible."

Metropolitan Transportation Network issued the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

"A significant bus driver shortage across the country is creating challenges for all schools. We were working diligently with the Stillwater school district until last week to try to find solutions to ensure all students had safe and reliable transportation. We have a shared goal of meeting the transportation needs of all students in the district and strongly believe we should be focused on meeting that goal. Over the holiday weekend, MTN has secured seven drivers who were working temporarily in the district to permanently cover the Stillwater area. This will help ensure continued coverage of routes while we hire additional drivers. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure we are covering as many routes as possible and do our part to help alleviate the concerns and uncertainty of the families in the district."