In a letter to its community, the Castaic Union School District announced its pursuit of contracting with an outside busing agency to meet its needs for the remainder of the fiscal year.
According to the letter, the district thanked its community for its support and patience regarding its transportation problems, but noted they are working toward finding a solution.
On Oct. 14, district officials issued an email to parents informing them Val Verde Route C would be suspended for three weeks due to a lack of qualified bus drivers. The decision would be reevaluated Nov. 7, the email noted.
“Castaic has provided this optional service to the families for many years and we are currently trying to continue this,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, we have had a severe staffing shortage in our transportation department.”
“Due to this shortage, we have had to make the difficult decision to temporarily stop transportation to certain routes,” according to the letter.
Superintendent Steve Doyle wrote in an email that the district has a legal requirement to provide transportation for students who have special needs. District staff discovered a number of special education students were not receiving that required service, so they decided to temporarily stop transportation for general education students in Val Verde.
“We know that currently there are families affected by the temporary suspension of the bus routes to Val Verde. We are actively working to find a solution to resume the routes put in place at the beginning of the year,” the letter reads.
According to district officials, the district considered the use of vans to transport up to 12 students. In this option, the driver does not need to have a special license to drive up to 12 passengers, but the issue becomes that the district does not have these vans readily available.
“To get the vans ordered we would have to wait the 1.5 year of production for each van,” the letter reads.
In addition, the drivers for these vans would still need to meet a minimum requirement to be able to transport children in a safe manner.
District officials are also exploring whether they can provide public transportation using city of Santa Clarita buses. However, this option is still being examined and discussed with city officials.
Ultimately, district officials wrote in the letter they would move toward contracting with an outside busing agency, with an option to extend the contract, to meet their needs while the district continues to hire bus drivers and increase staff in their transportation department.