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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — A lack of bus drivers will force the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) to reduce bus routes in 2023. 

Starting January 5, 2023, the district will no longer provide transportation for high school students who live within two miles of their school. An exception will be made for Shawnee Mission North students who live West of I-35.

“This is not a reduction that we would ever want to do mid-year, but it’s really out of necessity,” Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard said. 

The change is expected to impact roughly 284 high school students. The district will continue to provide transportation for roughly 1,600 high school students who live more than two miles away from their school. The change will not affect middle school or elementary school students. 

Currently the district offers free transportation for students who live 2.5 miles or further from their school and a paid option for students living less than 2.5 miles away from their school. 

Dr. Christy Ziegler, chief of student services, diversity, equity, and inclusion, provided the school board with an overview transportation reduction plan Monday evening. 

“Prior to this year we worked to keep ride times between 15 to 45 minutes for our students. With the staffing shortage we have seen ride times increase and now we are realizing we have some students that are riding for well over an hour,” Ziegler said.

SMSD contracts with DS Bus Lines to provide student transportation. The district currently has approximately 67 fewer bus drivers this school year compared to before the pandemic.

“As of late October, DS Bus Lines is operating with 19 routes unassigned. Meaning there’s no driver available to assign to that route. DS Bus Lines have maximized their substitute driver resources that are available and are utilizing their office staff if they have CDLs,” Ziegler said.  

Ziegler said when a driver is unable to come to work, bus routes are often combined to ensure students have transportation, but that results in additional delays and lengthens the ride times for students. 

The bus route change will be in effect through the end of the 2022-23 school year. Families that reside less than 2.5 miles from their child’s school, who’ve paid for a full year of service will receive a refund for the second semester.