The district eliminated the routes after it couldn’t hire enough drivers, but Transportation Director Cesario Flores confirms to SFR that SFPS hired six new full-time drivers and one part-time driver through its free, paid CDL training program.
Tesuque Elementary School PTA President Alejandra Rebolledo Rea says her son is thrilled with the news. When she told him about the return of Tesuque’s sole route, she offered to continue driving him, she says, but he refused.
“It’s his social time, his time to take care of himself and have that independence,” she tells SFR. “I’m relieved. We made the best out of it, and we got to create a community among the parents that were there…but there was especially a lot of stress for the staff…and with the gas prices, I heard there were parents that were hurting.”
During the period where routes were paused, the district consolidated remaining routes to include more stops for some students who lost their bus routes, leading to extended ride lengths that frustrated students at Mandela International Magnet School and elsewhere.
Julia Hansen, a Sante Fe High parent from the Tesuque area, has been worried this winter about students driving on icy roads.
“This will take a significant burden off the shoulders of families that have been impacted for months, having struggled to get their kids to school,” Hansen says. “The bus routes are critical to provide access to the schools, in particular for the at-risk students in rural areas.”
Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez congratulated the district’s transportation department in a press release for its “rapid response” to the bus driver shortage.
“I invite our community to welcome our new bus drivers as they take on the important job of safely transporting our students to school,” Chavez said in the Feb. 1 statement. “We’re glad to have them on board!”
The reestablished routes include routes 4, 6, 17, 19, 20 and 23, which serve Atalaya, Tesuque, Chaparral and Wood Gormley elementary schools, as well as Eldorado Community School, Milagro Middle School, Santa Fe High School, Early College Opportunities High School and Mandela.
“I wish we had this type of interest in our bus driver positions before the start of our school year so we wouldn’t have had to close routes at all this year, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way,” Flores tells SFR. “Our department is always working to hire and train new bus drivers and will continue to do so.”
The remaining canceled route, No. 5, previously served Ortiz Middle School and El Camino Real Academy. Flores says the district continues to evaluate whether it will resume.