Anchorage schools superintendent forecasts rough days ahead, promises improvements to student busing

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Anchorage students will likely see more traffic jams this week as the school bus driver shortage continues to wreak havoc on transportation plans, but the superintendent of the state’s largest school district is promising better times ahead.

Jharrett Bryantt, first-year superintendent of the Anchorage School District, told families in a letter Sunday that there are seven new bus drivers currently on the roads, with “more than 50 in the hiring/training process to do the same.”

Early bus driver shortages were discussed by officials before the school year started for ASD students last Thursday. When it was clear that there were not enough drivers to bus students to school, the school district devised a plan that revolved around suspending routes over a period of weeks with a rotating schedule.

Bryantt said in the letter that the district saw the traffic issues play out Thursday and Friday and stepped up its efforts to find a solution to the problems.

“The heavy traffic jams and snarls will continue this week. I’m not going to (sugarcoat) it,” Bryantt wrote in the letter. “It’s going to be tough for a bit longer, however, it will start to get better.”

The busing issue was severe enough that the State of Alaska sent a request to the Alaska National Guard asking for military members to assist in the shortage, but the state Department of Law intervened, saying that an Alaska statute does not allow for the activation of the National Guard for this purpose.

Bryantt initially denied any knowledge of talks with the National Guard or state in an interview with Alaska’s News Source last Thursday, but by Friday had penned a letter to ASD families acknowledging that the district did eventually communicate with the state and “partners at the National Guard” in coming up with a solution to alleviate the problem.

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The superintendent also preached safety for students and parents, listing numerous tips for drivers and pedestrians to follow to prevent issues while driving or walking to school while the traffic issues remain.

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