GRAND FORKS —Following an earlier announcement that Dietrich Bus Service would temporarily suspend regular route busing of Grand Forks Public Schools, the district has found a solution.
According to a letter posted on the district’s website Tuesday night, Aug. 24, the city of Grand Forks has offered the use of its services to help address this issue.
The post said the district will have regular route busing available Thursday, Aug. 26. The district is working on creating the routes and plans to communicate the details on Wednesday, Aug. 25.
Families will not be required to purchase bus tickets at this time.
“We will communicate a process to reimburse families who had purchased bus tickets for Dietrich Busing as soon as a process has been finalized,” the letter signed by Superintendent Terry Brenner said. “Thank you for your considerable patience and understanding as we create a solution.”
Tracy Jentz, communications and community engagement coordinator for the school district, said families who signed up for regular route busing need to have an alternative plan for Wednesday, Aug. 25.
"We are committed to having reliable transportation available for our students, and we are very grateful for the City of Grand Forks for their partnership and quick work on setting this up," she said in a text to the Herald Tuesday night. "Who will provide this transportation service will be determined the future."
Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski said the city is also a little short-staffed, but has four drivers with the correct CDL endorsement to drive a school bus. While there are still some final details to sort out, Bochenski said it will likely be a combination of the drivers driving school buses and the city routes. If students end up on a city bus, he said, there will be a monitor on board.
Earlier Tuesday, Aug. 24, the Herald reported that a driver shortage was affecting busing for the district.
Dietrich Bus Service, the company through which the district charters its school buses, informed parents of the service suspension shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23. Dietrich General Manager Brian Yanish said he doesn't expect the service suspension will be permanent, but he also doesn't know when service will resume.
Most Grand Forks students begin the school year Wednesday.
"My hope would be that this news triggers some people to come in the door to help us out, and we could get rolling as soon as we can get enough people licensed," Yanish said. "If they're not licensed, the best-case scenario would be a month. If they are licensed, a few days, maybe. But really, I don't know."
The bus driver shortage is not just a local problem, Yanish said — districts across the region and nation have been plagued by concerns of a shortage since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, at a local back-to-school meeting with bus drivers last week, some drivers unexpectedly announced retirements, and others didn't come to the meeting at all.